Disaster Food Protection Guidelines
Proper food handling techniques
during or after a disaster will reduce the possibility of food
contamination and disease.
- Do not use beef if
it has an odor or is slimy to the touch.
- Do not use pork if it has
an odor where the inner flesh meets the inner bone.
- Do not use fish if there is
an odor, if it has gray or greenish gills or sunken eyes.
- Do not use fruits and vegetables
that have come into contact with flood waters, water or chemicals
from extinguishing a fire, airborne chemicals or putrid air
from an industrial accident.
- Cans should be inspected for
spoilage before opening. Inspect cans for spoilage by determining
if the can is swelled on the top or bottom, has dents along
the seams, if the contents have an odor, foam, milkiness of
juice or leaks. Do not taste any suspect product to determine
safety of the food.
- Leftover food, not refrigerated
below 41°F for greater than four hours should be considered
spoiled or unsafe.
- Safe potable water must be
available and used for cooking, dishwashing, drinking and
maintaining personal hygiene. Safe water means commercially
packaged water, water from individual wells that has been
tested by Houston Health and Human Services Department laboratory,
or water supplied through the City lines certified as safe.
- Menus at food establishments
that are open after a disaster should be simple and require
minimal handling. For example, soups, canned meats and beans,
canned vegetables, dehydrated potato products, canned juices,
powdered milk, canned fruits, packaged cookies, crackers,
- Foods intended to be cooked
or heated should be heated to a minimum of 140°F. If food
is to be reheated, it must be reheated rapidly to a minimum
- Perishable or potentially
hazardous food should be stored at 41°F or below.
- There is only one way to be
sure dishes and utensils are clean. They must be washed, rinsed
and sanitized in safe potable water. Sanitization is very
important during and after a disaster. Effective sanitization
can be obtained by adding 1 ounce of chlorine to each gallon
of safe potable cool water. Wash dishes and utensils with
soap and water first, rinse with clean water and sanitize
with the bleach water.
- Do not forget to store clean
utensils in a clean place after washing, to be protected from
- Food dishes and utensils should
be guarded against chemical exposure or contamination.
- The use of single service
items is encouraged to reduce the possibility of food borne
illness. Paper plates and cups, plastic knives and forks that
are used only once are highly recommended.
After a disaster,
insect and rodent activity usually increases. Doors and
windows should have adequate protection to exclude insects
For this or
any other food-safety related information, please call the Consumer
Health Services of the Houston Health and Human Services Department
the HDHHS Bureau of Consumer Health Services