Food Safety and Wildfires

Key Points- General
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment. Respiratory protection is important during a fire event and gloves and goggles are important during clean up efforts. 
  • Wash your hands and clothes after handling foods/items that were impacted by fire or smoke. 
  • Chemicals used to fight fires cannot be washed off foods and these foods should not be consumed.
  • If in doubt, throw it out! This goes for foods and any potentially hazardous materials (e.g., garden chemicals and sanitizers) that show signs of damage.

 

Key Points - Produce

*These recommendations are based on a report from UCCE Sonoma County entitled, "Produce Safety after Urban Wildfire: Citizen Science Initiative". These findings are based on gardens and produce not directly in the line of fire or adjacent to burnt structures that were impacted by smoke contaminants.

  • First, inspect produce for visible particle deposits and plant damage. If any damage is observed, discard these items and do not consume.

  • Washing produce with clean running water, remove outer leaves of leafy greens, and peel root vegetables prior to eating, cooking, preservation, or storage.

  • Test soil regularly to determine if and what level contaminants are present. This will serve as an indicator for potential produce contamination.

  • Produce can be soaked in a 10% white vinegar solution (by volume) to remove soil particles from produce (e.g., leafy greens).

  • Much is still unknown about produce safety following a wildfire event and more investigation is needed.

 

* Key points were generated from the information provided in the resources below.

 

Resources

Food Industry Resources

Disaster Assessment, Response and Recovery Checklist (National Environmental Health Association)

Disaster Recovery (Community Alliance with Family Farmers; CAFF)

Food Safety After a Fire (Ontario)

Food Safety After a Disaster (UC Davis)

Food Safety and Reopening Your Business after a wildfire (British Columbia)

Produce Safety after Urban Wildfire (UCCE Sonoma County)

Wildfire Helpful Information, Links, and Resources (United Fresh)

 

Worker Health Resources

Worker Safety During Fire Cleanup (CDC). This factsheet is available in English and Spanish.

Worker Safety and Health in Wildfire Regions (California Dept. of Industrial Relations)

 

Consumer Safety Resources

Produce Safety after Urban Wildfire (UCCE Sonoma County)

Consumer Tips for Food Safety After Fires (Minnesota Department of Health)

Food Safety in a Disaster or Emergency (Foodsafety.gov)

Food Safety in Emergencies (UC Davis)

Food Safety Issues After a Fire (Colorado State)

Keep Your Food Safe During Emergencies: Power Outages, Floods and Fires

Recovering After a Wildfire (British Columbia)

Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19 (CDC). This webpage is available in English and Spanish 

 

Photo Credit: J. Waite-Cusic, September 8, 2020