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Flooding & Food Safety

Flood water can affect roads, pavements and footpaths, as well as causing drains to become blocked and sewage to be mixed with the water. Flood water should therefore always be treated as potentially hazardous to health.

People operating food businesses should read the  flooding food safety advice on the Food Standards Agency website, as there is a risk to the public if contaminated food and drink is sold.  Thorough precautions must be taken before starting to sell food or drink again and this advice should be followed.

Remember, flood water can contain:

  • sewage, chemicals and animal waste
  • sharp objects and trip hazards
  • raised or missing manhole covers
  • bacteria and vermin e.g. rats.

Food business operators are advised to speak to their insurers before discarding any food or equipment.

If you are in any doubt about what you need to do to ensure your food business can operate safely after a flood please contact Environmental Health by email environmental.health@eastherts.gov.uk. We can also advise on the disposal of contaminated food, drink and other contaminated items.

If you require a certificate for an insurance claim please contact Environmental Health. Please note that there is a charge for this service.

Food and drink

  • All open food in the premises must be destroyed.
  • All food, including that in closed containers which have been in contact or splashed with water must be disposed of.
  • Any wrapped food above the water line may be salvaged if there is no possibility that it was contaminated by the water.

Cleaning up food premises

  • Any equipment that was in contact with the floodwater must be assumed to be contaminated and will need thorough cleaning and disinfection.  For simple equipment (metal shelving, crockery, etc.) it will be possible to achieve this in the premises using hot water and detergent, followed by treatment with a chemical disinfectant. For complex equipment (vac packers, fridges, ovens, fat fryers etc.) this will not be possible and you will need to arrange for these to be professionally dismantled and disinfected or discarded.
  • Any absorbent fitting or equipment (wooden shelving etc.) in contact with floodwater must be discarded.
  • Sound, non-absorbent wall and floor finishes may be thoroughly cleaned then disinfected. Any absorbent or defective finishes must be replaced.
  • Structural timbers, such as floor joists may be retained if cleaned of all visible dirt then treated with a disinfectant chemical.
  • It is very important that you follow the instructions on the disinfectant or detergent to ensure you are using it correctly.

Gas and electricity

  • Electrical equipment and circuits including sockets and switches should be tested by a qualified person before being used. Gas supplies and equipment must be checked by a  Gas Safe Engineer. Even if they seem to be working don't forget that flues and vents may have become blocked and will have to be checked.