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Flooding of a Food Business

What is the food safety risk after flooding?

Flood water that entered your food business may have been contaminated with sewage, animal and other waste from drains or surrounding areas. Therefore, there is a risk of contamination of food, equipment and food contact surfaces with harmful bacteria or even chemicals.

What should I do with food that was stored in my premises?

Discard any food that has been touched or covered by floodwater, even unopened food as there is a risk of contamination when the food is opened afterwards. 

All open food that had been stored in the flooded preparation area, even if it has not been covered by floodwater, should also be discarded.

Any fruit or vegetables that are intended to be eaten raw, e.g., lettuce, strawberries, etc., that were covered by floodwater, must be disposed of.

Ensure that all shelves and containers used for storing food are cleaned thoroughly with hot soapy water and a food grade detergent where appropriate.

If there was a power outage as a result of flooding what should I do?

It may be difficult to determine when the power outage occurred during flooding and so it is necessary to check the temperatures of your fridge and freezers.

Discard any meat, fish or dairy products that have fully defrosted in your freezer. Any food that is still frozen can continue to be frozen as long as the temperature is still below -18º C.
Food stored in the fridge must be kept at 0-5º C. If it is likely that the temperature of the chilled food was above 5º C for longer than 4 hours, it must be discarded. Remember, ‘If in doubt, throw it out’.

Before re-stocking with food, check that the freezer and fridge units are working properly as the floodwater may have affected these units.

How should I dispose of any affected food?

Contaminated or damaged food should be placed into sealed refuse bags to avoid contaminating other areas. The refuse bags should then be placed outside the food premises with all other waste according to the business's waste management policy.

Rodents such as rats and mice may also pose a problem following flooding so ensure that all waste is handled appropriately.

What should I consider when cleaning my food business after it has been flooded?

All work surfaces, equipment and chopping boards that have come into contact with floodwater should be cleaned thoroughly and disinfected. Crockery, glassware, cutlery, etc., must also be cleaned thoroughly and disinfected.

Any work surfaces or other equipment that were badly damaged by the floodwater, should be replaced due to the risk of contamination. Wooden work surfaces should be replaced and wooden chopping boards should be disposed of.

Unless they can be professionally cleaned, any water-damaged materials and soft furnishings or furniture should be discarded. Open all doors and windows to ventilate the premises appropriately and ensure that ventilation systems are working properly after flooding.

What precautions should my staff take when cleaning flooded areas?

Always wash hands with soap and warm water after being in contact with floodwater and affected surfaces. Ensure that all cuts and sores are covered (using waterproof plasters) to reduce any risk of exposure to flood water and other contaminants. Wear protective clothing when entering a flooded area to minimise the safety risk.

If any staff member feels unwell following the clean-up after flooding, they should contact their GP. Staff who may have been unwell as result of flooding should not be allowed to handle or prepare food.

After a thorough clean up, can I re-open my food business?

Following flooding and the subsequent clean-up operation, it is advisable to speak to your local environmental health officer for more advice before re-opening.