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Public health & wellbeing > Disaster management

Food safety in an emergency

Food copyright
Following an emergency such as a flood, storm or cyclone, there is a danger that some food in your house may not be safe to eat, especially if power has been cut or if food has been in contact with contaminated floodwater.

After an emergency, it is recommended that you dispose of:

Commercially canned foods that are sealed, not bulging or dented, may be safe. It is recommended that you:

Vegetable gardens

If your vegetable garden has been in contact with floodwater, the food may be contaminated and unsafe to eat. Contaminants may persist in the soil after flooding. Depending of the type of contamination, it may take at least a month before your home garden is suitable for replanting and/or harvesting of any produce.

Cleaning and sanitising

If benchtops, food utensils and kitchen equipment have been in contact with floodwater:

Water for drinking

In an emergency, tap water and private water supplies from tanks, wells and bores may become unsafe to drink, use for cooking and cleaning.

Listen to the radio for public announcements about the safety of your water supply, or check with your local council or water utility. Private water supplies should be tested before use.

To ensure your water is safe:

After a power failure

It is useful to make a note of the time the power failed.

Keep cold food cold.

Keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible while the power is off. A closed refrigerator should keep food cold for four hours.

Freezers will usually not defrost and spoil food for at least 24 hours, provided the door has been kept shut. If frozen foods have thawed, they should not be refrozen but should be kept cold and eaten as soon as possible.

If you have access to ice, pack your refrigerator and freezer to help maintain a cool temperature.

Keep hot food hot.

Throw out food that was being cooked when the power failed, if the cooking cannot be completed within two hours. If food is already properly cooked, eat it within two hours or throw it out.

Remember: If in doubt, throw it out!

Further information

Last Updated: 14 December 2015
Last Reviewed: 06 January 2014

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In an emergency, call 000 for police, fire or ambulance
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