Is this safe to eat? What to do with your food in the event of a bushfire

Jan 08, 2020
Foods that have been fire damaged or affected by heat should be thrown out. Source: Getty

The Food Safety Information Council (FSIC) is urging you to check your pantry and fridge if your property has been damaged, your home smells strongly of smoke, or your power has gone out as a result of the bushfires.

Lydia Buchtmann from FSIC says all foods that have been fire-damaged or affected by heat should be discarded. This includes all perishable and non-perishable foods, such as cans or packaged foods.

“One of the dangers of a fire can be toxic fumes from burning materials,” Buchtmann warns.

She says the heat from a fire can cause bacteria in food to multiply and grow. Chemicals used to fight the fire can also contain toxic materials. It’s also best to throw out any raw food, or food from a refrigerator, and thoroughly wash cooking utensils that may have been exposed to toxic chemicals. Buchtmann advises to wash in warm soapy water, then sanitise in 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach per 2 litres of water and rinse.

Meanwhile, if your power goes out, there’s a lot you can do to help reduce the risk of food-related illness. For example, throw away all perishable foods if the power has been off for more than four hours. Buchtmann says food will remain safe in your refrigerator for roughly two hours.

“Don’t open the fridge door during the power cut, unless necessary,” she says.

In the event of a power outage, she says to keep the refrigerated foods as cold as possible or place items in the freezer.

“Freezers that are in good condition and operate at -15°C or below can keep foods at safe temperatures for between one and two days,” she explains. “If the freezer door is kept shut, a full freezer can keep food chilled for up to 48 hours, while a half-full freezer can safely keep food chilled for 24 hours.”

Alternatively, remove all meats, poultry, dairy products and potentially hazardous food (such as dips or pre-cooked food) from the refrigerator and place in a cooler with an ice brick. Salted butter, margarine and hard cheeses will remain safe at room temperature.

“Throw out any food that was being cooked when the power failed if cooking can’t be completed properly within two hours,” Buchtmann adds. “If the food is already cooked, eat it within two hours or throw it out.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Have you been affected by the recent bushfires?

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