Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Information and Resources

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

What's Inside? Decoding Product Labels

Ever rubbed on a fragrant lotion, or aimed a cleaning spray at a smear of grime, and wondered, “what’s in this stuff, anyway?” Don’t rely on the product label to tell you -- at least, not without some digging. In an increasingly chemically dependent age, it can be surprisingly hard to know what’s inside all the bottles we bring into our homes. Some product labels are more complete than others, but few list every ingredient -- and some barely list any. “People are surprised to find that dozens...

Read the What's Inside? Decoding Product Labels 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

hands on abdomen
Can you catch one?
Woman sitting in front of UV lights
Is yours working?
woman using breath spray
What's causing yours?
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
bowl of yogurt with heart shape
Eat for a healthy heart.
woman doing pushups
To help you get fit.
Colored x-ray of tooth decay
Know what to look for.
Woman sitting with child
Do you know the symptoms?
mosquito
Stings, bites, burns, and more.
Allentown, PA
Are you living in one?
Thyroid exam
See how much you know.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.