Food Safety After A Natural Disaster

After a natural disaster such as a hurricane, it’s important to take steps to prevent illness from unsafe foods. Here are some tips to help keep your food safe.

After a hurricane be sure to:

  • Throw away perishable food that has not been kept refrigerated or frozen due to power outages.
    • If you experienced power loss and you kept your refrigerator and freezer doors tightly closed, food will be safe in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours. Food in a full freezer will be kept safe for up to 48 hours and 24 hours if the freezer is half-full
  • Throw away any food that has come in contact with water.
  • Throw away food that has an unusual smell, color, or texture.
  • Remember: When in doubt, throw it out!

If you have experienced flooding and your food has come in contact with water, throw out the following:

  • Any food that has an unusual smell, color, or texture
  • Food in any packaging that is not waterproof, such as cardboard
  • Food containers with any type of twist top
  • Any food item that is open or damaged
  • Home-canned food items

Cleaning and sanitizing:

  • Throw out wooden cutting boards, baby bottle nipples, and baby pacifiers if they have come in contact with flood waters. They cannot be sanitized properly after being exposed to contaminated water.
  • Be sure to sanitize countertops, dishes, silverware, and refrigerator doors/drawers or any other surface that comes in contact with food.
  • There are 4 steps to properly sanitize items:
    1. Wash with hot soapy water.
    2. Rinse with clean, safe water.
    3. Sanitize
      • Make a solution of 1 cup (8 oz/240 mL) of unscented household chlorine bleach in 5 gallons of clean water.
      • Soak items for 1 minute in the beach solution (solution should completely cover the items).
      • For items that you can’t put in the solution (like countertops), apply solution with a cloth.
    4. Allow to air dry

If you need food assistance, this Food Pantry Locator will help you find the food pantry nearest you and help provide sustaining nutrition for you and your family after a disaster.

Additional resources after Hurricane Ian and other natural disasters can be found here:

FEMA Assistance

UF/IFAS Disaster Resources

SNAP Assistance After a Disaster



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September 1). Keep food safe after a disaster or emergency.



Hillary Ayers, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for UF/IFAS Extension Orange County
Posted: October 4, 2022

Category: Disaster Preparation, Food Safety, Health & Nutrition, Home Management, Relationships & Family, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension, WORK & LIFE
Tags: Disaster Preparation, Disaster Resources, Food Assistance, Food Safety, Hurricane, Hurricane Recovery, Ocextension, UF/IFAS Extension, UF/IFAS Extension Orange County

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