Whan reminds flood-affected residents of food safety

Posted by Josette Dunn on 13th December 2010

NSW Primary Industries Minister, Steve Whan, has called for those impacted by the devastating flood events across NSW to be mindful of food safety during and following the emergency.”We now have 30 Local Government Areas placed under Natural Disaster Declarations as a result of widespread flood action in NSW,” said Mr Whan.

“It is therefore important to remember that floodwaters can be contaminated with sewage,agricultural and industrial waste or any number of other things that can cause illness”.

“There is a risk that any food that has come into contact with floodwater may be contaminated-and that also applies to surfaces and cooking utensils.”

Mr Whan outlined the following simple rules to minimise any food safety risk:

  • throw out any food that has come into contact with floodwater or has an unusual odour, colour or texture-do not taste or cook it.
  • throw out food that has gone past its use-by date.
  • check canned food and discard any that are dented, swollen or damaged
  • thoroughly clean and sanitise surfaces and food utensils
  • vegetable gardens may take up to a month to become suitable to consume from after a flood or sewage discharge, discard all leafy green produce.

“Because power is often cut during a flood situation, it is important to discard food that has not been maintained at its correct temperature. Try to keep the door of your fridge and freezer closed but if frozen food does thaw do not refreeze,” Minister Whan said.

“The best rule of thumb is: if in doubt throw it out.”

The NSW Food Authority also advises that food businesses impacted by flood must not sell food that is unsafe or unsuitable and they must ensure that any discarded food cannot be easily accessed or collected by consumers. Food businesses should contact their local council for assistance and advice with reopening their business.

Mr Whan said while extreme situations such as flood are challenging there are a number of simple steps people can take to avoid further complications.

“Even though many people are in very trying situations, it is important they exercise basic hygiene practices during this time,” he said.

“Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before preparing and eating food – use an alcohol based hand sanitiser if there is not plentiful clean water around.

“In tough times for many families, the last thing you need is to become ill on top of dealing with the fallout from the wild weather we’ve been seeing across the State.”