The Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Agency of Agriculture issued an advisory today for anyone growing fruit and vegetables that may have come into contact with flood waters. Flood waters could have been contaminated and people are urged to discard above-ground fruit or vegetables that have matured and cannot be washed and cooked prior to consumption. Produce to be concerned about are lettuce, greens, herbs, tomatoes and squash that have already developed fruit. Root crops can be consumed as long as they are thoroughly washed and cooked. It is difficult to remove all the contamination with just plain rinsing. Any produce in question should be thrown away.
Never taste food to determine it is safe. Some foods may look and smell fine, but can still make you sick.
If you have any doubt, throw it out.
Any food that has been in the refrigerator or feezer and thawed when the power went out is in question, too. To avoid food poisoning, discard perishable foods like eggs, meat, fish, milk, etc. that have been above 41 degrees Fahrenheit (F) for more than four to six hours. The average full freezer keeps foods below 41 degrees (F) for two to three days without electricity. Freezers that are less than full will keep the temperature below 41 degrees (F) for a shorter period of time.
If food still contains ice crystals or has been kept below 41 degrees (F) for one or two days, it can generally be refrozen.
Foods that have been at or below 41 degrees (F) for more than several days should be inspected carefully before eating or refreezing. If the color or odor of thawed beef, pork, lamb or poultry are poor to questionable, discard the meat (in a way that no human or animal will be tempted to eat).
You cannot necessarily tell by the odor whether vegetables, shellfish or cooked foods have spoiled. Since bacteria multiply rapidly in these foods, do not eat any that have thawed out completely. If the freezer temperature is above 41 degrees (F) for more than four to six hours, the food is probably not safe to eat.
If you have a private well that has been covered by flood waters, assume that your water source is contaminated and boil water for 5 minutes before using to drink, cook, brush teeth, etc.
For extensive information information about health and safety related to floods, power outages and clean up, go to the Health Department website at healthvermont.gov