Food and water safety after Hurricane Issac

PEARL –The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency wants to make sure the Isaac evacuees returning home are aware of the food and water safety hazards they may encounter once they are home.

The Mississippi State Department of Health recommends that residents discard any cold or cool food that has warmed. Food that is still frozen or cold (45 degrees Fahrenheit or less) is safe to prepare. Individuals should not eat any food that may have come into contact with contaminated water from floods or tidal surge.

Canned food should not be eaten if there is a bulge or opening on the can. If the can is undamaged, the label can be removed and the can disinfected in a bleach solution. Use one-quarter of a cup of bleach in one gallon of water. The can should be re-labeled with the expiration date and type of food. It is safe to assume that all home canned food is unsafe.

Infants who are not nursing should be fed only canned baby formula. Do not use powdered formulas prepared with water treated with water-purifying tablets. Boiled water should be used when preparing formula.

More than 50 boil-water alerts are in effect throughout the state, particularly in the southern and southwestern counties that felt the brunt of Isaac. Local governments will inform residents when tap water is safe to drink or be used for cooking and bathing.

To correctly boil or disinfect water, let the water come to a rolling boil for one minute to kill most bacteria. Another option is to use water-purifying tablets instead of boiling water.

Important information if your community is under a boil-water notice:

  • Do not drink tap water.
  • Do not use ice made from recent tap water.
  • Do not use tap water to make drinks, juices or fountain soft drinks.
  • Cook with tap water ONLY if water is boiled for at least one minute.
  • Wash dishes, fruits and vegetables in boiled water or water that has been disinfected with bleach.
  • Using your home dishwasher is not recommended.
  • Brush your teeth with boiled or bottled water.

Food and Water safety

  • Wash your hands and bathe as usual. Bathing is safe as long as no water is swallowed.
  • Wash laundry as usual. Laundry washed in hot or cold water is safe.

After a boil-water notice is lifted:

  • Flush faucet for a total of 10 minutes to introduce system water throughout house plumbing:
    • One faucet – run for 10 minutes.
    • Two faucets – run both for five minutes.
    • Three faucets – run each for three to four minutes.
  • Flush any faucet for a minimum of two minutes to ensure clearing of the line serving the faucet.
  • Discard any drinks, ice, food, etc., made during the boil water notice.
  • Rewash any food or drink contact items (knives, forks, plates, etc.) with cleared system water.
  • Do not use water from your hot water heater for drinking until several exchanges of the tank have occurred.
  • Run dishwasher through a cycle or two before washing dishes.

For a full list of boil-water notices, or for more information about what to do following a boil-water notice, visit

For more information, visit us online at You can also follow us on Twitter using keyword MSEMA and on Facebook under Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

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