Flood: Food Advisory for Growers and Consumers

For Immediate Release: June 16, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Department of Health issued an advisory today for anyone growing fruits and vegetables that may come into contact with flood waters.

Flood waters could have been contaminated and people are urged to discard above-ground fruits or vegetables that have matured and cannot be washed and cooked prior to consumption. Produce to be concerned about are lettuce, asparagus, herbs and strawberries, which have already developed fruit. Root crops are not a concern as long as they are thoroughly washed and cooked.

The Rutland City public drinking water supply has been determined to be safe for all uses. However, leafy crops, such as lettuce, are difficult to remove all the contamination with just plain rinsing and should be thrown away.

If you have any doubt, throw it out.

A basic rule to remember for all food that may have come in contact with contaminated water, or out of temperature in the event of a power outage that would cause food in the refrigerator or freezer to thaw is: If you have any doubt, throw it out.

Another basic rule is: Never taste food to determine it is safe, some foods may look and smell fine, but it can still make you sick.

To avoid food poisoning, discard perishable foods like eggs, meat, fish, milk, etc. which have been above 41 degrees Fahrenheit (F) for more than four to six hours. The average full freezer keeps foods below 41 degrees (F) for two to three days without electricity. Freezers that are less than full will keep the temperature below 41 degrees (F) for a shorter period of time.

If food still contains ice crystals or has been kept below 41 degrees (F) for one or two days, it can generally be refrozen.

Foods that have been at or below 41 degrees (F) for more than several days should be inspected carefully before eating or refreezing. If the color or odor of thawed beef, pork, lamb or poultry are poor to questionable, discard the meat (in a way that no human or animal will be tempted to eat).

You cannot necessarily tell by the odor whether vegetables, shellfish or cooked foods have spoiled. Since bacteria multiply rapidly in these foods, do not eat any that have thawed out completely. If the freezer temperature is above 41 degrees (F) for more than four to six hours, the food is probably not safe to eat.

For extensive flood health, safety and cleanup information, go to the Health Department website at healthvermont.gov.

For questions from the public, dial 2-1-1.

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