What About Your Food Storage after a Flood?

What do you do with your food after your basement has flooded?  First, do not eat any food that has come in contact with floodwater.  Consider the flood water to be contaminated.

Get rid of the following types of food.

  • Opened containers and packages which have come in contact with floodwaters.
  • Unopened jars and bottles with screw top lids such as those containing mayonnaise or salad dressing.  The water will get up into the threads and you cannot decontaminate them.
  • Any foods in paper, cloth, fiber or cardboard boxes, even if the contents seem dry.  This includes salt, cereals, pasta products, rice and any sealed packages of crackers, cookies or mixes.
  • Dented seams, bulging, rusty or leaking tin cans.
  • Home-canned foods, this is a bit more controversial.  While water can get under the threads, you can remove the locking rings and if the seal is still good, you may be able to decontaminate the jars.

Products properly sealed in cans or foil pouches can be used after the container is rinsed with clean water and immersed for 15 minutes in a freshly made solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of clean drinking water.  The containers should be completely air-dried before opening or storing.  If you lack bleach, you can submerge the cans in boiling water.

One of the problems you would encounter is the fact that the labels would be damaged or destroyed.  This would present a problem in identifying the contents of your cans.  You would have food to eat, but you might have a strange menu.


6 thoughts on “What About Your Food Storage after a Flood?”

  1. You could always wright with a marker what is in the cans (on the top or bottom) before cleaning them or even better when the cans are new.

  2. The one thing to remember with Mylar or other types of foil bags, if that is what you choose to use to seal your food in, is that mice or other rodents can still easily chew through them. Make sure you are water proofing your food, but also proofing it from pests as well during the dry times. Great reminder, thank you!

  3. This article brings up an important issue. We all need to store bleach in our food storage so we have a way to decontaminate the cans or bottles if they do come in contact with flood water. I always keep a permanent black marker by my food storage items so I’m never tempted to put food items away without labeling them and dating them.

  4. what about food sealed in 5 gallon buckets that you have hammered the sealed lids back onto. not the thread on type but the lid with the rubber seal in the lid that came on food safe buckets? wouldn’t it be safe except for cleaning the outside of the bucket?

    1. It may very well be safe, if no water got inside and you were able to disinfect the outside. The problem would be under the rim of the lid. Be sure and get that cleaned well.

  5. Could you use a warm/hot paraffin dip to seal over the cap/rim area to occlude water seepage?

    Not so hot as to melt plastic, etc. – just to cover the vulnerable area to seal….

    Just a thought!

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