Keeping food safe

Food might be the last thing on your mind as you survey the damage caused by wild winds, heavy rain and flash flooding, but when your fridge and freezer stop working, food can deteriorate and spoil, grow bacteria and cause food poisoning.

Food safety after a flood

Floods are a potential danger for people, animals and property. Flash flooding carries the greatest risk of injury or death. After an emergency, it is recommended you throw away:

  • Food that has come into direct contact with floodwater
  • Any food that has an unusual odour, colour or texture
  • Perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that have been left at above 5°C for more than four hours
  • Canned food if the can is open, swollen or damaged
  • Food containers with screw caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soft drink bottles), twist caps, flip-top lids and home-canned foods.

For cleaning cans that are still sealed, not swollen and intact, but have come into contact with floodwater:

  • Remove the label since it could harbour dirt and bacteria
  • Thoroughly wash the outside of the can with drinking water
  • Dip them in a solution of 1.5 cups of household chlorine bleach mixed into 10 litres of water (a household bucket) for two minutes
  • Re-label the cans with a waterproof marker pen, including the expiry date
  • It is recommended the product be used as soon as possible.

If in Doubt, Throw it Out!

What to have at hand during an storm/emergency:

  • Fridge or food thermometer
  • Tinned food
  • Tin opener
  • Ice bricks (already chilled/frozen)
  • Long life foods (juices and milks)


  • Never taste food first to determine its safety.
  • Never eat food if it has been stored at the incorrect temperature.
  • Never eat food that has a strange taste, odour, or has become slimy.

These tips are a guide only. If you need further advice about this information, please call Queensland Health on (07) 3234 0111.