Contaminated food can cause a host of diseases. It is extremely important to know the difference between what food is safe to eat, and what is contaminated. During times of emergency, it may become more difficult to determine what is good and what should be thrown out. In order to prevent diseases from spreading, public health departments implement non-pharmaceutical interventions. This involves using strategies such as isolation, decontamination, and specific hygiene measures in order to protect individuals from disease threats. In the instance of food safety, floods, fires, and power outages are three main emergencies that can quicken the food spoilage rate.
Extreme heat and smoke caused by fires can activate bacteria that will make all food in contact with it unsafe. In floods, however, not all food necessarily needs to be disposed. If food was kept in an airtight container and can be disinfected, it is considered safe to keep. On the other hand, any food that was in contact with flood water must be disposed of immediately! In the event of a power outage, refrigerators must be closed at all times to keep food at a safe temperature. In a completely closed refrigerator, food can last up to 48 hours. As soon as there is a power outage, place a thermometer in the fridge to measure food temperature to determine if it is safe to keep. By taking these simple measures, food poisoning and other diseases can be prevented.
So what happens to restaurants and food stores after emergencies? All of these places must be sanitized in order to reopen. This involves disposing waste, using pesticides if necessary, and removing any food that came in contact with water and smoke or is at an unsafe temperature. When ordering new supplies, managers should only order from known vendors and must store fresh food at a safe temperature and away from raw meats. A local health officer will determine if and when a restaurant can reopen after an emergency. In all cases of emergencies, if in doubt, throw it out!