Extreme weather of many types, even just heavy rains, can also bring with them increased pest activity—even to facilities that have not previously experienced issues in the past.
“Pests can pose an imminent risk to food safety, so after any extreme weather event, once your facility has been deemed safe, ensure that you do a thorough inspection of your facility’s interior and exterior to inspect for damage that could allow for pest entry, clean away debris on the exterior (garbage/trash, leaf piles, fallen trees, etc.), and remove any flood-soaked materials from the interior (carpeting, cardboard, etc.),” Boyles says.
In the case of flooding, all food that contacted the water must be discarded. It may be possible to disinfect some cans if the can integrity is still intact, but everything else affected must go.
Hutchings says to check for dents and bulging cans, which could be signs they are contaminated with botulism.
“Flood waters are filthy with sewage and chemicals and could also contain pests, such as rodents, snakes, and ants,” Boyles adds. “And if significant time has passed, there may be air quality risks from mold and mildew.”
If the facility is inoperable after the extreme weather, consider donating unspoiled food which is at risk of going bad.
In any situation, food operators should always follow the direction of local public health authorities. These teams are the most up-to-date on the situation and coordinate with other authorities to ensure the safety and welfare of everyone.