Food safety

Food safety in emergencies

During an emergency

Minimise food and water spoilage

During an emergency we need to ensure we have the right facilities available. Normal household appliances such as fridges and ovens may break down, our food could spoil faster and our water supply could become contaminated. To avoid this happening follow the steps below:

  • eat perishable foods, for example bread and meat first, as they spoil faster than non-perishable food
  • eat canned foods last
  • minimise food spoilage by opening the fridge or freezer only when you need to take food out
  • do not eat vegetables or fruits that have been lying in flood water
  • cover all food with plastic wrap or store in waterproof containers
  • leave bottles, drink cans and water containers in the fridge (if it's working) to keep things cold
  • throw out rotting or tainted food before it spoils other food.
Focus on hygiene

Maintaining hygiene around food preparation and cooking requires more thought than normal.

  • always wash and dry your hands before preparing food - if water is in short supply keep some in a bowl with disinfectant
  • ensure all utensils are clean before use
  • cook food thoroughly
  • cover all food with plastic wrap or store in waterproof containers
  • keep a supply of fly spray
  • rubbish containing food scraps must be protected from flies and rats by wrapping or putting in a sealed container.
Use safe cooking and washing water

The following household facilities can be used to cook, wash dishes, and wash your hands:

  • hot water cylinder
  • toilet cistern - as long as no chemical toilet cleaner is present
  • bottled water
  • spa/swimming pool - can use to wash yourself and your family.

Boil or purify water before using it in food preparation, and to avoid cross-contamination of food. Once boiled, cover and store in a clean container and place in the fridge (if it's working) or in some other cool place. Re-boil the water if it is not used within 24 hours.

If you do not have power to boil water then purifying tablets or bleach can be added to ensure its safety. Add five drops of household bleach per litre of water and leave for 30 minutes.

After an emergency

Ensure food is safe

Knowing what is safe to eat during the 'clean-up' phase after an emergency can become a guessing game. Understand what may or may not be safe to eat:

  • any food that retains ice crystals and where the packaging has not been damaged or opened can be safely refrozen
  • foods that have been defrosted can still be used if they have just recently defrosted and can be kept cold, ie the fridge is working again
  • defrosted food cannot be refrozen
  • inspect the food - does it smell or appear different? (Has the colour changed and does it have a slimy texture?), if so it is probably unsafe to eat
  • do not use any tinned food that has been damaged (for example if the can has split seams or has been punctured).

The best way to prepare for an emergency is to have an emergency kit at home and sort out your household emergency plan before an emergency.