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Page updated Oct 23, 2015 1:19 PM

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Guidance for Food Establishments Following a Storm

Food facilities must have power, adequate refrigeration, safe water, and hot water to operate. Because storms can disrupt one or all of these things, the Health Department has provided the following guidance on how to respond to, or cleanup after, a power outage or flooding. Remember, food that is out of temperature or contaminated by flood water, debris or the elements must be discarded. When in doubt, throw it out!

Operating without Electricity

If you do not have electrical power at your food establishment, you must cease all food operations and close until power is restored and call the Health Department at 703.746.4910. Leave a message indicating the name of your business, street address and the time you lost power. You must remain closed until normal power is restored or until you can switch over to generator power. A Health Department inspection will be required before you reopen if power was lost for more than 2 hours.

Food Salvage after a Power Outage

Perishable, refrigerated foods such as meats, fish, poultry, and all dairy products that have been without refrigeration and have been above 41°F for more than two hours should be discarded.

  • Any perishable food from the freezer that has thawed for more than two hours and is above 41°F should be discarded.
  • Any food item discarded should be disposed of in well tied double-bagged plastic garbage bags.
  • After the power returns, it is OK to refreeze frozen foods that still contain ice crystals and are below 41°F. These include meats, fish, vegetables and cheeses.
  • As a general rule, a well-functioning freezer that remains unopened and is at least half full will keep foods cold for about 24 hours.

When in doubt, throw it out.

Food Salvage after Flooding

Flood water can make foods unsafe to eat, especially if packaging is contaminated. Discard food if water has covered, splashed, dripped on or seeped into the package.

This includes:

  • Foods in packages made from paper, plastic, cloth, fiber or cardboard and glass jars.
  • Foods, liquids or beverages in crown‐capped bottles or containers with pull‐tab tops, corks or screw caps; and
  • Cans that:
    • Are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted; and
    • Have been tossed about and are far from their normal storage spot (possibility of pinholes or seam fractures).
    • Cans may not be sold without all required labeling information. Therefore, cans with damaged labels should be discarded.

      Any food item discarded should be disposed of in well tied double‐bagged plastic garbage bags.

Clean-Up after Flooding

  • To prevent mold and mildew growth, conduct corrective actions within 24‐48 hours after the flood waters recede.
  • Remove wet materials. Dispose of any materials that cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized. Remove any standing water.
  • Floors, walls, furnishings, carpets, and equipment damaged beyond salvage must be removed and replaced as necessary.
  • Affected walls, floors, and equipment surfaces must be cleaned with soap and water, rinsed, and sanitized.
  • Use a detergent solution to clean floors, equipment, and other affected areas followed by a clean water rinse.
  • Disinfect the floor and any other affected areas by using an EPA‐registered disinfectant such as a 500 parts per million chlorine solution or other product labeled as a disinfectant. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for ‘disinfectant” use.
  • Air‐dry the affected area.
  • Clean and sanitize any utensils and salvageable equipment in the affected area.
  • Launder any linens or uniforms in contact with flood water. Launder separately from other linens by using bleach and/or a mechanical dryer.
  • Launder or discard mop heads and other cleaning aids that contacted flood water.
  • Alternative measure: Hire an outside service having expertise in cleaning and sanitizing food establishments exposed to floods.

Contact EH

For more information on food safety, contact the

  • Alexandria Health Department at 703.746.4910
  • In an emergency, call the Environmental Health emergency number at 703.795.8506. This number is answered 24/7.