Is My Emergency Food Still Good if it’s Been in Contact with Floodwaters?

Flood victim being rescued from truck sinking in water

Flooding is a big problem for many U.S. residents. From flash floods created by severe storms or tornadoes to more slow building and long-term flooding caused by hurricanes. One question most people don’t think to ask until it’s too late is… How do you know if emergency food that might have been in contact with floodwaters is still good?

First, let’s take a look at food that should immediately be thrown out if that’s the case.

Emergency Food You Should Throw Out If Submerged in Flood Waters

You do not want to eat any food that may have come into direct contact with flood waters. Immediately throw these emergency food items away should they come into contact with flood waters:

  • Bags of grain, salt, sugar, coffee and tea
  • Any food contained in plastic bags or boxes made of plastic or cardboard
  • Fresh garden produce
  • Containers of spices, seasonings, nuts and flavorings
  • Home-canned foods in glass or plastic bottles

Factory-sealed canned food will probably still be good after being in contact with floodwaters. But the cans should be washed thoroughly with a strong detergent solution and a scrub brush. Soak the cans in a lukewarm solution of chlorine for a minute or so, then allow them to air-dry before opening.

Dishes and utensils exposed to floodwaters can also be saved. But again, they need to be washed thoroughly in a detergent solution. Glass dishes and china should be soaked in a chlorine solution, while metal items such as utensils, pots and pans should be immersed in boing water for approximately 10 minutes.    

A couple of good options for food storage to protect against water contamination are:

  • Emergency food stored in mylar pouches and water-resistant totes like this 4-Week Survival Food Kit for example*

  • Water bricks that can also be used to store grain, rice, beans, sugar, pet food or other dry goods

  • Canned food items if washed properly after coming into contact with flood waters

*Mylar® brand is a registered trademark of DuPont Teijin Films. DuPont is not affiliated with and has not endorsed or sponsored this product.