Office of Communications
For more information contact:

Joe Thornton
Office of Communications & Legislative Affairs
West Virginia Department of health and Human Resources
Phone: 304-558-7899 Fax: 304-558-7075
Cell: 304-546-7960 e-mail:

For immediate release

Food protection after flooding or power outage

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has issued the guidelines for the safe handling of food and household items exposed to flood water. Using foods, household products, medicines and cosmetics exposed to flood water may pose a health risk.

Any of the following items exposed to flood water should be destroyed:

* Fresh fruits and vegetables, from grocery stores or home gardens

* All meats (fresh, dried, frozen and home canned) except those in sealed (airtight) cans

* Home canned foods

* Food in paper or plastic containers or wrapping (cereal, bakery goods, dried fruit, flour, sugar, salt and frozen foods)

* Food, medicine, cosmetics and household products with screw-on or crimped caps, such as soft drink bottles.

All foods requiring refrigeration should be destroyed if they have been without refrigeration for four or more hours. Food that has thawed or partially thawed should be destroyed. Frozen food, not exposed to flood water or other contamination, is safe for use if the time without power isn’t more than 24 hours. Individuals should decide whether to recondition commercially canned foods. Food in cans that remain airtight (free from severe dents, split seams, leaks, or bulges) may be saved by removing the labels, washing the containers in soapy water, rinsing in clear water and dunking in a laundry bleach solution of two tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water. This bleach solution should be freshly prepared and regularly changed when a lot of items are being washed. Finally, containers should be rinsed in cool water from a safe source. Relabel the containers for future use.

Information is available from local health departments about protecting food and other household items. More information is also available at

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