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Food Safety After a Flood

Advice about what to keep and what to throw away. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

People can get sick if they eat food touched by floodwaters. Floodwater may contain human and animal wastes, and other pollutants like agricultural and industrial chemicals.

After a flood, throw away anything not stored in a waterproof container if there was a chance of contact. That is the advice of food safety specialists at the United States Agriculture Department.

Food containers that are not waterproof, they say, include those with screw caps, snap lids, pull tops and crimped caps. Also throw away boxes of juice, milk or baby formula if they have come into contact with floodwater.

The Minnesota Department of Health says to throw away anything in soft packaging. And the Extension Service at North Dakota State University says not to save plastic bags of food even if boxes and containers inside the bags appear dry.

Also, do not eat fresh produce from the garden if it has come in contact with floodwater. To be safe, have the soil tested.

The Extension Service also says to throw away screw-topped or crimp-topped jars and bottles even if they have never been opened.

Glass jars and bottles of home-canned foods should be thrown out as well. Experts say the containers cannot be effectively cleaned after a flood.

Throw away damaged metal cans or hard plastic containers. Do not use cans that are swollen or leaking, or that are rusted or crushed.

But experts say that some unopened, undamaged all-metal cans can be saved. First, remove any labels. The paper may contain dirt and germs from the floodwater. Wash the cans with soap and water, and brush or wipe away dirt. Use hot water and water that is safe for drinking if they are available.

Next, place the cans again in water and heat the water to one hundred degrees Celsius. Boil the cans for two minutes.

Another way to disinfect them is in a freshly made solution of chlorine bleach. Use one tablespoon of unscented liquid bleach for every four liters of water. Use drinking water or the cleanest, clearest water available. Place the cans in the solution for fifteen minutes.

Once cans are clean, let them air-dry for at least one hour before opening or storing them. Relabel them with a marking pen to list their contents and any dates when they are best used by. Experts advise using the cans as soon as possible.

And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I’m Bob Doughty.