Make Sure Your Food and Water Are Safe to Use
After a hurricane, it’s important that the water you drink and food you eat is safe. Spoiled food or dirty water can make you and your family sick.
Food Safety After a Hurricane
Keep Food Fresh
- If your power is out, keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep in the cool air.
- Put a block of ice in your refrigerator if you expect the power will be out for more than 4 hours. It will keep food cool longer. Wear heavy gloves when handling the ice.
- Even if it's partially thawed, you can still cook or refreeze frozen food as long as you can see ice crystals or if it's still 40°F (degrees Fahrenheit) or lower.
Throw Out Spoiled Food
Get rid of food if it:
- Is in a can that’s open, damaged, or bulging.
- Has a strange smell, color, or texture.
- Needs to be refrigerated but has been warmer than 40°F (degrees Fahrenheit) for 2 hours or longer. Foods that need to be kept cold include meat, eggs, fish, poultry, and leftovers.
Clean Off Canned Food
If you have cans of food that came in contact with floodwater or storm water, you need to clean them off to make sure they’re safe to use. To get germs off the outside of the cans:
- Remove the labels.
- Dip the cans in a mix of 5 gallons of water and 1 cup of household bleach.
- Label the cans with a permanent marker so you know what’s inside.
Water Safety After a Hurricane
Ask local officials or listen to the news to find out whether you can drink tap water or use it for washing. If it’s not safe, use bottled water if you can. If you don’t have bottled water, there are some things you can do to kill germs in dirty water and make it safe to drink. For example:
- Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute.
- Use household bleach. Add 1/8 teaspoon of new, unscented liquid bleach to 1 gallon of water. Stir well. Let the water sit for 30 minutes before you drink it.
- Use water-purifying tablets. Adding these to water make it safe to drink. Follow the product’s directions.
Feeding Your Baby
If you have a baby, protect her from germs in unsafe water. You can:
- Keep breastfeeding if that’s what you normally do.
- Use canned or premixed liquid formula.
- Use bottled water to make formula from a powder or concentrate.
If you don’t have bottled water, use boiled water to make formula. Make sure the water has cooled before mixing it with formula and giving it to your baby.
Only use treated (disinfected or purified) water to make formula if you don’t have access to bottled or boiled water.
For more safety tips, check out Keep Food and Water Safe after a Natural Disaster or Power Outage.
- Page last reviewed: May 1, 2014
- Page last updated: March 9, 2015
- Content source:
- National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH); Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR); Office of Noncommunicable Diseases, Injury, and Environmental Health (ONDIEH); National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP); National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD)
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