When the extremely dangerous category five storm, Hurricane Irma, crashed into Florida on Sunday, it brought along much more than floodwater and violent wind gusts. The FDA and CDC are advising Florida residents to stay clear of any produce touched by the pathogen-containing floodwaters plaguing the Sunshine State.
“Fresh fruits and vegetables that have been inundated by flood waters cannot be adequately cleaned and should be destroyed,” according to the FDA.
“There is no practical method of reconditioning the edible portion of a crop that will provide a reasonable assurance of human food safety. Therefore, the FDA recommends that these crops be disposed of in a manner that ensures they are kept separate from crops that have not been flood damaged to avoid adulterating ‘clean’ crops.”
Floodwaters carry various pathogens and parasites such as E. coli, Salmonella, typhoid and cholera.
The FDA’s “Emergencies” webpage provides food safety tips such as:
Do not eat any food directly exposed to flood water.
Do not eat food from non-waterproof containers or damaged cans.
All-metal, non-damaged canned food can be used if the cans are cleaned, rinsed, and sanitized in a solution of 1 tablespoon household bleach in 1-gallon water for 15 minutes. Labels should be removed prior to cleaning, and the cans should be relabeled afterwards.
Thoroughly wash, rinse, and sanitize (using a solution of 1 tablespoon household bleach in 1 gallon of water) all metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils (including can openers), and countertops.
Hurricane Irma lost strength as it crossed Florida and was downgraded to a tropical storm. Florida residents are still advised to stay clear and safe from contaminated food products.