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News Releases
Food Safety Tips for those Recovering from Wildfires, Other Fire Devastation
Kathy Bernard (301) 344-4746
Richard J. McIntire (202) 720-9113

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2010 – Due to the potential threat from flames, like those recently caused by the large wildfire near Herriman, Utah, with 1,250 homes evacuated and 15 homes reportedly destroyed, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing recommendations to minimize the likelihood of foodborne illness during the recovery or clean-up phase after a fire.

Each year, two million American homes and families experience losses from wildfires or flames sparked by accidental fires.

"Particularly during times of emergency, food safety is a critical public health issue," said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza. "In the aftermath of fire, whether it's the whole house or a kitchen fire, people try to save what they can - including food. Generally, saving food that's been in a fire is never a good idea. FSIS wants to make consumers aware that information is readily available to help them protect their food."

Tips to follow after a fire in your home or business:
  • Heat from a fire, smoke fumes and chemicals used to fight fire can compromise food.

  • Food in cans or jars may appear to be unaffected, but if they've been close to the heat of a fire, they may no longer be safe. Heat from a fire can activate food spoilage bacteria. If a can ruptures as a result of a blaze, the food inside will be unsafe.

  • Toxic fumes, released from burning materials, can kill and they can also contaminate food. Any type of food stored in permeable packaging - cardboard, plastic wrap, etc. - should be thrown away. Surprisingly, food stored in refrigerators or freezers can also become contaminated by fumes. The refrigerator seal isn't airtight and fumes can get inside. If food from your refrigerator has an off-flavor or odor, throw it away.

  • Chemicals used to fight fires contain toxic materials and can contaminate food and cookware. The chemicals cannot be washed off of food. Foods that are exposed to firefighting chemicals should be thrown away. This includes food stored at room temperature, as well as foods stored in permeable containers like cardboard and screw-topped jars and bottles.

  • Canned goods and cookware exposed to chemicals can be decontaminated by washing items in a strong detergent and then dipping them in a bleach solution composed of 1 tablespoon unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water for 15 minutes.

  • When in doubt, throw it out!


Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at www.AskKaren.gov. "Ask Karen" live chat services are available Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m ET. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. Podcasts and SignFSIS video-casts in American Sign Language featuring text-captioning are available online at www.fsis.usda.gov/news_&_events/multimedia.

CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Call 1-800-CDC-INFO or 1-800-232-4636, TTY 1-888-232-6348, for information on hazards, safe clean up, and preventing illness and injury. Available in English and Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. www.cdc.gov

General Consumer Food Safety Information: www.foodsafety.gov
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For additional information on Emergency Preparedness, visit: www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/ Emergency_Preparedness_Fact_Sheets/index.asp

Follow FSIS on Twitter @usdafoodsafety.
Last Modified Jun 04, 2013