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Protect food supply, yourself in a disaster

WASHINGTON — Hurricanes, floods and electrical outages create serious safety risks that require special measures to control, the Food Marketing Institute points out.

Foods that have come in contact with floodwater or water from broken pipes can be dangerous to eat. Floodwater may carry silt, raw sewage, oil or chemical wastes. Electrical outages might stop refrigeration, causing food to spoil.

People can protect themselves from illnesses caused by unsafe food and water by taking important measures suggested by FMI. These include:

Water: After a flood, consider all water unsafe. Listen for public announcements on the safety of the local water supply before using any water for drinking, cooking or cleaning. When using faucet water, bring water to a rolling boil for one minute.

Non-refrigerated foods: Save canned foods if they are not dented or damaged. Throw away all dry and fresh foods that came in direct contact with floodwater. Throw away all dry and fresh foods, and all cans, that came in contact with industrial or septic waste. If unsure about any food, throw it out.

Refrigerated foods: Food in a refrigerator is generally safe if the power was out for less than two hours. Freezer foods will last longer. Food in a full, freestanding freezer will be safe for about two days; a half-full freezer for about one day. It is safe to refreeze thawed foods that still contain ice crystals.

Clean and sanitize any kitchen areas or items that have come in contact with floodwaters. Discard wooden spoons, wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, and baby bottle nipples and pacifiers. These items may absorb or hide bacteria, making them difficult to clean and sanitize. Wash all kitchen linens in detergent and hot water. Use chlorine bleach to sanitize the linens following directions on the bleach container.

More information, including disaster planning and recovery, on the Web at