Skip to content
    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Water and Food Safety After Hurricanes

    Can you drink the water and eat the food? Advice from the FDA.
    By
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Hurricanes often leave power outages and flooding in their wake.

    To help you prepare for this hurricane season, WebMD gives advice from the FDA about what is safe to drink and eat in the aftermath of a storm.

    Recommended Related to

    Green Tips for a Cool Summer

    Keeping our houses cool with air conditioners costs Americans about $11 billion a year. And those air conditioners release about 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air annually -- two tons for each home that has one. With the demand for home air-conditioning systems in the U.S. at an all-time high, summer’s toll on the environment is probably going to get worse. The good news is that by following some green tips at home this summer, you can cool off, save money, and make a sizable dent...

    Read the Green Tips for a Cool Summer article > >

    Water Safety After Floods and Hurricanes

    Don't assume that local drinking water is safe after a flood or hurricane. Listen to local announcements on water safety.

    If you can't get bottled water and tap water safety is questionable, purify your drinking water. Here are three ways to do that:

    • Boil water vigorously for one to three minutes (three minutes for altitudes above 1 mile).
    • If you can't boil water, add eight drops (an eighth of a teaspoon or 0.75 milliliters) of newly purchased, unscented liquid household bleach per gallon of water, stir it well, and let the water stand for 30 minutes before you use it. This should get rid of any bacteria in the water but won't kill parasites.
    • Water-purifying tablets are another option. Look for them at pharmacies or sporting goods stores.

    Food Safety After Floods and Hurricanes

    If flooding has happened, immediately evaluate your supply of stored food and water.

    Perishable items (like meat, poultry, milk, seafood, and eggs) that are not properly frozen or refrigerated may make people sick, even if those foods are cooked thoroughly.

    Don't eat any food that's come into contact with floodwater.

    Throw out food that's not in a waterproof container if there's any chance floodwater touched it. That includes food containers with screw caps, snap lids, and home-canned foods.

    Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved. Here's how:

    • Remove the labels
    • Thoroughly wash the cans
    • Disinfect the cans with a quarter of a cup of bleach per gallon of water.
    • Relabel the cans with a marker. Include the expiration date.

    Get rid of wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby-bottle nipples, and pacifiers. They can't be safely cleaned if they've been touched by floodwater.

    Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils with soap and hot water. Then sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of a quarter of a cup of chlorine bleach per gallon of water.

    Hot Topics

    WebMD Video: Now Playing

    Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

    Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

    disciplining a boy
    Types, symptoms, causes.
    fruit drinks
    Eat these to think better.
    embarrassed woman
    Do you feel guilty after eating?
    diabetes supply kit
    Pack and prepare.
    Balding man in mirror
    Treatments & solutions.
    birth control pills
    Which kind is right for you?
    Remember your finger
    Are you getting more forgetful?
    sticky notes on face
    10 tips to clear your brain fog.
    Close up of eye
    12 reasons you're distracted.
    Trainer demonstrating exercise for RA
    Exercises for your joints.
    apple slices with peanut butter
    What goes best with workouts?
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    Myths and facts.

    Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

    It's nothing to sneeze at.

    Loading ...

    Sending your email...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Women's Health Newsletter

    Find out what women really need.