NC State Extension Publications

What Can I Keep?

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Keep Discard
Foods that have NOT come in contact with flood water Raw and ready to eat food that may have come into contact with flood water is risky – this would include raw fruits and vegetables
Food that are in waterproof containers, or did not come in contact with flood waters Discard any food that is NOT in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are NOT waterproof includes those packaged in plastic wrap or cardboard, or those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Flood waters can enter into any of these containers and contaminate the food inside. Also, discard foods in cardboard boxes such as juice, milk and baby formula; as they cannot be sanitized. Discard home canned foods if they have come in contact with flood water, because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized either.
Canned foods that are undamaged and not swollen Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel-type can opener.

What to Discard

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Some foods are riskier to eat after being held at 41°F for more than 4 hours because they can support the growth of bacteria that cause illness.

Dairy Products

  • Opened baby formula

  • Homemade eggnog

  • Soft cheeses: blue/bleu, gorgonzola, brie, camembert, cottage, cream, monterey jack, ricotta, mozzarella, muenster, queso blanco, queso fresco

Sauces, Spreads, Condiments and Jams

  • Opened horseradish

  • Fish and oyster sauces

  • Opened creamy based dressings

  • Commercial garlic in oil mixtures

Pastries, Pies and Baked Goods

  • Cream filled pastries

  • Pies: custard, cheese filled, chiffon

  • Cheesecake

Meat, Poultry, Seafood and Eggs

  • Leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish or seafood;

  • Leftover meat substitutes

  • Salads made from meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken or eggs

  • Gravies, stuffings or broths

  • Lunch Meats

  • Cooked egg dishes, egg products

  • Custards and puddings made with eggs


  • Cooked pasta and rice

  • Pasta salads

  • Fresh pasta

  • Cooked potatoes and potato dishes

  • Leftovers such as casseroles, soups, stews

  • Leftover pizza with meat or vegetables

Note that some of the foods on this list may spoil faster the longer they are at ambient temperature. These are quality concerns, and the food should still be safe to consume. However, if you notice off smells, textures or flavors, you may wish to discard the food.

  • Sanitizing Solution: 1 tablespoon bleach + 1 gallon water

    Clean all undamaged metal cans (after removing labels) with a sanitizing solution and check for bulging. Clean pots, pans, dishes, and utensils with sanitizing solution.

For More Information

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For more information on disaster preparedness and recovery visit the NC Disaster Information Center.

Materials adapted the USDA FSIS.


Extension Food Safety Specialist and Assistant Professor
Agricultural and Human Sciences

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: Oct. 21, 2016
Revised: Aug. 4, 2021

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