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Prevent Foodborne Illness During Natural Disasters

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how to avoid foodborne illnesses in a natural disaster Andres Rodriguez/PhotoSpin

Items in a half-full freezer should be discarded if one day without power has elapsed.

6. Be aware that many kitchen items cannot be safely cleaned and sanitized after exposure to floodwaters. You should throw out wooden cutting boards, wooden and plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.

7. Countertops that have come into contact with floodwaters need to be sanitized thoroughly, down to every crack and crevice, using a bleach-and-water solution. Also pay attention to door handles and door seals.

8. Many pantry items need to be discarded after floodwater damage, including anything packed in plastic, paper and cardboard. Even items with screw-caps and flip tops cannot be disinfected.

9. Listen for updated announcements about the safety of the local water supply.

If you are concerned about having possibly contracted a water- or food-borne illness, keep in mind these symptoms as listed by the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse:

- vomiting

- diarrhea

- abdominal pain

- fever and chills

The duration and severity of these symptoms can vary according to the type of bacteria that prompted them.

In all matters regarding the potential spread of bacteria and the prevention of illness after a natural disaster, caution and common sense should prevail. If in doubt, throw it out.


“Foodborne Illnesses.” National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Web. 29 October 2012.

“In an Emergency.” FoodSafety.gov. Web. 29 October 2012.

“Keep Food Safe During Emergencies.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ EatRight.org. Web. 29 October 2012.

“Food Safety in the Home After a Hurricane and/or Flooding.” HomeFoodSafety.org. Web. 29 October 2012.

Reviewed October 30, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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