Flood recovery - a priority guide for food businesses

Floodwaters cause significant damage to buildings and equipment however, they also pose a risk to health due to contaminants such as sewage and chemicals in the water. The moist and humid environment can spread diseases including Salmonella and Hepatitis A.

After the floodwaters have receded and Emergency Services have advised it is safe to return to your premises there are many important thing to consider and steps to be taken before you start operating again.


Be aware of your surroundings:

  • check for damaged or potentially contaminated materials or substances
  • check for and be careful on slippery surfaces
  • If you can’t eliminate or avoid a risk (e.g. large chemical spill, collapsed wall) exit the premises and advise Emergency Services

Ensure gas and electricity is turned off

  • Make sure that all electrical equipment is turned off and unplugged from the wall socket
  • Power should not be reconnected and electrical equipment inundated by water should not be used until a qualified electrician has conducted an assessment and given the all clear
  • For refrigerators, coldrooms and freezers that have been inundated check with your qualified refrigeration expert about reconditioning and temperature checking before use

Check floor drains and other waste water discharge points

  • Ensure drains and waste water points are clear and can be used

Cleaning and sanitising

  • Anything touched by flood water is contaminated and should be cleaned and sanitised
  • Thoroughly and repeatedly clean and sanitise the premises, utensils, equipment and other contact surfaces, (such as benches and shelving) before recommencing food processing. If possible, complete your first clean down within two days after water has receded to help prevent mould and mildew growth.
  • Throw out wooden chopping boards and timber pallets as they are likely to promote bacteria growth


It’s important to find out whether the water is safe to drink and use for cleaning.

  • Check with your local council before using town water to see is safe to use and if there are “boiled water alerts” in place
  • If you have your own treatment system for water such as inline filter check and replace the filters as they are highly likely to be contaminated.  Have the output from your water treatment tested for bacteria, such as E. coli and for solids
  • Only use tank or dam water after it’s been boiled or treated
  • If you’re unsure about the quality of the water make sure it’s treated before using water for cleaning (see cleaning and sanitising tips below)
  • Take care when using a high pressure hose for cleaning as it may spray contaminated water over other surfaces, equipment and food


  • When cleaning up after the flood ensure staff and volunteers wear personal protective equipment such as boots and gloves
  • Provide bottled drinking water until you have been advised that water is safe to drink
  • Personal hygiene is very important – ensure hand sanitiser is regularly used to prevent any cross-contamination if water quality is in doubt


Throw out all spoiled food – this includes:

  • food that came in contact with flood waters
  • perishable food that has been left at 5°C or above for four hours or more
  • food that has missing labels and cannot be easily identified and shelf-life determined

Storage of food and ingredients

  • Store acceptable food and ingredients in sealed containers to prevent cross-contamination and access by pests such as rodents


  • Store waste including food, equipment and utensils, as far from the premises as is practical
  • Ensure that the discarded food is stored so it doesn’t attract pests or wild animals
  • Check with your local council about rubbish and kerbside collections


  1. Use hot, soapy drinking quality water to wash utensils and surfaces
  2. Take apart non-electrical pieces of any kitchen equipment where this can be done safely and then clean in hot, soapy water
  3. Sanitise silverware, metal utensils, pots, pans and kitchen equipment in pieces by placing them in water that has been boiling water for at least 1 minute
  4. Food dishes and utensils that cannot be safely placed in boiling water – such as certain glassware, porcelain, china and enamelware – should be sanitised by immersing it in a disinfecting solution of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach per 2 litres of hot water, then rinsed with drinking quality water before use
  5. Clean cupboards and counters with hot soapy water, then rinse with a chlorine bleach solution of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach per 2 litres of hot water.  Rinse thoroughly with drinking quality water  before storing dishes
  6. Air dry items if there is any possibility that tea towels might have been splashed with contaminated water