Food Safety Concerns With Power Outages and Floodwater From a Storm

— Written By Natalie Seymour and last updated by
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Tropical storms, floods, and other natural disasters can cause power outages and floodwater can bring dangerous compounds into your kitchen that lead to food safety concerns. As storms such as Tropical Storm Isaias approaches, protect your food and family by being prepared.

Four Ways to Prepare for a Power Outage

  1. Purchase or locate thermometers. Place a thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer; have a tip-sensitive digital thermometer ready to check food temperatures. Foods that can support the growth of pathogens (like cooked vegetables, cooked and raw meats and cut melons, leafy greens, and tomatoes) are riskier after being held above 41ºF for more than 4 hours.
  2. Check stock of refrigerator. Purchase or prepare food items that don’t require refrigeration and can be eaten cold or heated on an outdoor grill. Store or purchase water in case water systems are impacted resulting in boil water advisories.
  3. Use bottled/clean water for everything from brushing teeth, cooking.
  4. Prepare coolers and purchase ice and dry ice. Use dry ice to extend the amount of time food stay below 41ºF. Freeze containers of water for ice or purchase ice.

Floodwater and Food after a Storm

Floodwater can bring silt, raw sewage, oil, and chemical wastes into your home. These compounds can leave dangerous bacteria or chemicals on your food or utensils and equipment such as pots, pans, serving and storage containers making food unsafe to eat. Knowing what food to keep or toss along with proper cleaning and sanitizing can help ensure the food you eat is safe.

Safe Food After a Flood

Helpful Resources

Meal Prep and Food Safety After Power Failure From a Hurricane Fact Sheet

Recovering from a Hurricane: Refrigerated and Frozen Foods Fact Sheet

Food Safety When the Power Goes Out Video

Kitchen Clean Up After a Flood Fact Sheet

Safe Food For After a Flood Fact Sheet

Food Safety After a Flood Video

Visit our Disaster Preparedness page for more information and resources and follow us on our @SafePlatesFSIC social media handles (FB, Twitter, and Instagram). This page provides resources for how to handle food when disaster strikes.

Written By

Natalie Seymour, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionNatalie SeymourExtension Associate Email Natalie Agricultural & Human Sciences
NC State Extension, NC State University
Updated on Aug 3, 2020
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