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Food safety in an emergency

Be prepared for emergencies

Preparing yourself and your family for emergencies could save lives.

Get to know the potential emergencies that could affect your neighbourhood. Emergencies can be situations such as chemical spills or power outages. They can also be natural events such as

For example, if you live in an area that is often affected by floods, plan to store your food on shelves so that it will be away from potentially contaminated water.

By planning ahead and taking practical steps to prepare, you can do your part to stay safe during an emergency.

Make a plan and get a kit

As a household:

Remember that in case of a major event you must prepare to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours while emergency workers focus on people in urgent need.

For a complete list of items to include in your emergency kit and other emergency preparedness information, visit

Steps you can take to keep your food safe in an emergency

Practicing safe food-handling is an important part of everyday life, but is especially important in emergency situations.

Be sure to carefully inspect all food items and do not eat any food you think may not be safe. Spoiled food may not look contaminated. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out.

Plan ahead for emergencies

Handling refrigerated and frozen food during a power failure

Handling refrigerated and frozen food after a power failure

Safe handling of food and water

Cleaning and drying stored food and food surfaces after a flood

Only undamaged, commercially-prepared foods in sealed, unopened, airtight, waterproof cans, jars or pouches are entirely safe to use. However, these cans and/or pouches must be carefully inspected, cleaned and disinfected before use by following these procedures:

  1. If possible, remove the labels on cans or pouches since they could have come into contact with dirt or bacteria. Be sure to re-label your cans or pouches, including the "best before" date, with a permanent marker.
  2. After labels are removed, cans can be cleaned by washing them for two minutes with a mild bleach solution - 5 ml (or 1 tsp) of bleach per 750 ml (or 3 cups) of water.
  3. Air-dry all cleaned food cans, jars and pouches to prevent potential contamination when the containers are opened.

Food preparation equipment, surfaces, dishes and utensils should be properly sanitized with a mild bleach solution. It is important to allow equipment, surfaces, dishes and utensils to air dry thoroughly before storing. Do not put one wet cutting board on top of another, because bacteria can multiply in trapped water.

By taking steps before, during, and after an emergency, you can help protect yourself and your family from food-borne illnesses.

The Government of Canada's role in food safety

The Government of Canada is committed to food safety.

Health Canada establishes regulations and standards relating to the safety and nutritional quality of food sold in Canada. Through inspection and enforcement activities, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for verifying that food sold in Canada meets Health Canada's requirements.

Related Resources

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