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Tornado recovery food and operational safety

When tornadoes strike, entire communities are affected. In many instances, restaurants and foodservice operations open their doors to feed and assist their neighbors. We hope this food and operational safety information can be of assistance to organizations supporting affected towns and cities.

Food and operational safety tips following a tornado

As businesses that have weathered the storms look to reopen or aid their neighbors, we hope that this food and operational safety recovery information can be of assistance. Always follow instructions provided by emergency or public health authorities on site or in your immediate area. The information provided below does not supersede direction provided by experts on the ground in the crisis.


  • Safety should always come first.
  • Do not operate in any facility not cleared by emergency or disaster personnel.
  • Do not use generators, grills, or charcoal-burning devices inside a building.

Power outages, flooding & food safety

  • Many foods that are time/temperature controlled for safety – eggs, meats, seafood, milk, cheese, prepared foods, cooked vegetables, cut tomatoes, greens and melons, and bakery products with custard/cream fillings – may need to be destroyed if they go out of temperature range. Temperature-abused foods can grow harmful bacteria and spoil, putting people at risk for foodborne illness.

  • Storm damage can also put food and facilities at risk for dangerous contamination. These tips may help you make decisions about the safety of food items.

  • Discard any frozen items that have thawed.

  • Discard any canned foods with dented seams. Bacteria can grow when seams or seals are broken.

  • After 8 hours with no power, discard all cold time/temperature controlled for safety foods that were above 45° F for 4 hours or longer and discard any cooked food that was in the cooling process. Discard hot foods after 4 hours out of temperature control.

  • Use your senses - Any food that smells off, looks off-color, or has changed texture should be immediately discarded. Never taste suspect food items; if food has spoiled or been contaminated, you could make yourself sick. During intermittent power outages, create ice baths for potentially hazardous foods.

  • Carefully inspect all foods for damage or contamination with slivers of glass or other debris.

  • If a facility flooded or had sewage backup, discard the following if they have come into contact with floodwater or sewage: food, linens, single service items, foil/plastic wraps, wooden cutting boards, spices, and screw cap jars. Disinfect undamaged canned goods with 500 ppm chlorine.

  • Wash, rinse, and disinfect all affected floors, walls, and furnishings. Prepare disinfectant with 500 ppm chlorine by adding 8 ounces 5.25% bleach per 5 gallons of potable water. Food contact surfaces must be rinsed following the use of this solution.

Water supply

A clean water supply and sufficient plumbing are necessary for food operation. If water service is interrupted or becomes contaminated, you may need to consider these additional food safety measures:

  • Drink and serve only bottled water if the municipal supply or well-water may be contaminated or if there is a boil water advisory. Boil water for a minimum of one minute for all hand washing and ware washing. Follow hand washing with hand sanitizer. Use gloves for all ready-to-eat food contact.

  • Prepare only menu items that require no water or minimal water to prepare.

  • Use disposable plates, cups, and cutlery to limit the need for dish washing.

  • Stop using ice machines or soda fountains if the water supply is contaminated. Serve canned or bottled drinks. When service is restored, discard first cycles and sanitize ice bins before resuming ice service. Flush all water lines for 5 minutes or longer before using.

  • Only use a dish machine or dishwater if 180° F or hotter water is available. Use a three-compartment sink to wash wares with boiled water as a substitute for a dishwasher.

  • Toilet facilities must be available to employees.

Contacting Steritech

If you are interested in learning more about food and operational safety following a tornado, we recommend the below resources.

If Steritech can be of any assistance in this time of need, please call our Customer Care Center at1-800-868-0089 or contact us online.

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