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Safe water, food and medicine important after wildfire

Friday, April 20, 2018

After a wildfire, the safety of water and food as well as medications are at the top of the priority list for affected families.

The general rule of thumb when it comes to food safety and wildfire is if there is any doubt, throw it out, said Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service food specialist.

“Any food and beverages exposed to heat, smoke or soot should be discarded,” Brown said.

In an emergency, commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable option. It also has an indefinite shelf life.

Water believed to be contaminated should not be used for drinking or making ice; preparing food or baby formula; bathing, washing hands or brushing teeth; or cleaning dishes.

Fresh food, any open containers and stored raw foods such as potatoes and onions should be discarded if they came in contact with fumes, water or chemicals. Likewise, throw out exposed staples such as flour, sugar, spices, seasonings and extracts as well as items stored in containers with peel-off tops, cardboard boxes or wrapped in foil, plastic, cellophane or cloth.

Dispose of dented, bulging, rusted or charred canned goods, or canned items exposed to extreme heat.

“Keep in mind refrigerators and freezers may not have remained airtight. If a food item smells bad or tastes off after it’s cooked, throw it away,” Brown said. “Frozen foods that still have ice crystals might be salvageable, but thawed items shouldn’t be refrozen,” Brown said.

In the event of a power outage, discard all meats, seafood, milk, soft cheeses, eggs, prepared foods and cookie dough that spend more than 2 hours at a temperature above 40F.

Because heat can affect the potency of some medications, any medicines exposed to heat, smoke and soot should be thrown away or a medical professional should be consulted before using potentially compromised prescription or over-the-counter medications.

For more information about food safety after a wildfire, contact the nearest county Extension office.

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