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City Desk



By Angela Shelf Medearis

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Flood Waters and Food Safety

The news has been dominated with reports hurricanes and floods, and disturbing images of the destruction left in their wake. There are many problems to handle after a flood has devastated your home, one of which is food safety due to the contaminants in floodwaters.

If you are not sure if your food was directly exposed to floodwaters, it is safer to heed the saying, "If in doubt, throw it out." Don't be tempted to try to salvage damaged food, including cans or sealed pouches, as it is hard to tell if they are contaminated.

Remember to check with insurers before disposal because your food may be insured. Take photos of the damaged goods for use as part of your insurance claim. Put flood-damaged food in black plastic garbage bags, double bagged if possible; seal the bags and place them in your designated collection area.

It's important to follow good food hygiene to stop the spread of any harmful germs that might be present in your home. Here are some basic tips for keeping food safe in times of floods:

* Don't eat any food that has been covered or even touched by floodwater or sewage.

* Always wash your hands before preparing food.

* Clean and disinfect work surfaces, plates, pans, cutlery, plastic or ceramic chopping boards, etc. before using them with food. If you have a working dishwasher, this is a more efficient way to clean and sanitize smaller items.

* Discard wooden chopping boards and wooden spoons if contaminated by floodwater.

* Clean and disinfect the inside of your fridge and food cupboards.

* Don't use work surfaces, plates, etc. if they are badly chipped or damaged.

* If your power has been cut off and your fridge has not been working for more than four hours, throw away the food inside.

* If your freezer has not been working, throw away any meat, fish or dairy products, or foods containing these, if they have started to get soft. Also throw away any food you would eat frozen, for example, ice cream.

* Depending upon how full the freezer is, produce can remain frozen for 24 hours or more. The fuller the freezer, the longer the contents will remain frozen.


Many areas hit by hurricanes or floods also are without basic public utility systems. Keep in mind that fully cooked foods or Meals Ready to Eat will be much easier to "heat and eat" than whole, non-cooked foods. Using a portable generator to power stoves and microwaves is inefficient.

Here are a few options for portable emergency heat sources that can be used for cooking:

Mini Camp Stove -- These tiny stoves fold flat for storage, and provide a larger surface to cook on. They fit over the top of a small, round canned fuel container (Sterno or liquid canned fuel). They work best for warming or reheating. Safe inside or out, as long as there is some ventilation.

Portable Camp Stove -- Coleman-style stoves are compact but can generate enough heat using butane or propane cylinders to cook a complete meal. Single or multiple burners, optional griddles.

Here's a Creamy Potato and Vegetable Soup recipe that uses canned foods to create a comforting "heat and eat" meal.


This simple soup is a "use what you have" recipe. If you don't have potatoes, you can substitute canned black or pinto beans (rinsed and drained) and diced, canned tomatoes or bottled salsa for the water. A variety of spices can be substituted for onion powder, including garlic powder, herb and spice blends, lemon pepper, etc. Canned foods are typically higher in salt, so you won't need much to season the soup.

1 can chicken broth

1 cup water

5 cups cubed potatoes, fresh or canned

2 tablespoons dehydrated onion flakes or onion powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons pepper

2 cans mixed vegetables or 1 can each of your choice of canned vegetables, drained

8 ounces cubed, canned ham or chicken (optional)


1. Over medium heat, and using a large pot, pour in broth and water, potatoes, onion powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, and cook 15 minutes or until potatoes are just tender. Take out a cup of the potatoes and mashed them with a fork until smooth. Stir them back into the soup to thicken it.

2. Add vegetables and canned ham or chicken (if you decide to use it). Cook uncovered for 5 to 7 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children's author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is "The Kitchen Diva's Diabetic Cookbook." Her website is To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.

(c) 2017 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis




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