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Food Safety After a Tsunami

To prevent foodborne diseases, wash your hands with clean water and soap before and after you eat or prepare food and after you use the latrine or bathroom. If you do not have clean water, use waterless hand sanitizers until clean water is available for washing.

Do not eat any food that has not been sealed in waterproof containers (commercially canned or sealed plastic containers) and that may have come in contact with untreated water, such as seawater, floodwater, river water, or pond water. Throw away any food not in nonsealed, nonwaterproof containers that has come in contact with untreated water.

Undamaged commercially canned foods can be saved. Remove the can labels, wash the outsides of the cans with soapy water, and thoroughly disinfect the cans using a solution of 1 cup (8 ounces; approximately 0.25 liters) of household bleach (5.25%) in 5 gallons (approximately 19 liters) of treated drinking-quality water. Use a marker to note the contents and expiration date on the cans.

If opened food containers have screw caps, snap lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, or flip tops, or if they have been home canned, throw them away if they have come in contact with untreated water. They cannot be disinfected.

Feeding Infants

If you are not breastfeeding, use only pre-prepared canned baby formula that requires no added water.

Keeping Foods Cold

If available, dry ice can be used to keep foods cold—25 pounds (approximately 11.5 kg) of dry ice will keep a 10-cubic-foot (283-liter) freezer below freezing for 3 to 4 days. Be careful when handling dry ice, because it freezes everything it touches. Wear dry, heavy gloves to avoid injury. As dry ice melts, it changes from a solid into a gas. Ventilate (air out) vehicles or rooms when transporting, storing, or using dry ice. Without good ventilation, gas from melting dry ice can build up and cause harmful effects, including unconciousness and death.

Deciding About Thawed Food

Thawed food can usually be eaten or refrozen if it is still "refrigerator cold" or if it still contains ice crystals. To be safe, remember, "When in doubt, throw it out." Discard any food that has been at room temperature for 2 hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture. A food thermometer can be used to check food temperature.

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