Clearing up after a flood - advice for food businesses


Canned and unopened packaged foods that have been in contact with floodwater must be disposed of. Any opened packages of food, whether or not they have been in contact with floodwater, should be disposed of, as they are likely to have become damp.


All canned and bottled drinks (e.g. wine, spirits, beer and soft drinks) that have been in contact with floodwaters must be disposed of. Care must be taken to ensure that they cannot be consumed (e.g. pour them away, or have them collected by your waste company).

Wooden beer casks that have been in contact with floodwaters must also be discarded. Metal beer barrels can be used if the floodwater has not come close to any outlet or inlet on the barrel. You must advise your suppliers, on returning the barrels, casks etc., that they have been contaminated with floodwater so that they can take the necessary precautions.

If the floodwater contained diesel, then any containers that have come into contact with the floodwater must be disposed of.

Contact us if you need a certificate for insurance purposes, or need advice about disposing of equipment, goods and damaged food. There is usually a charge for this service but in some circumstances we may not charge.

Cleaning equipment/surfaces

It is important that you clean your premises thoroughly before you start trading again. Areas that require close attention include:

  • Food preparation surfaces (e.g. work tops), kitchen furniture (eg tables/shelves/cupboards), food processing equipment, refrigerators etc.
  • Crockery, utensils, chopping boards, pots, pans, storage containers etc.

First, you should clean these items with hot soapy water.

Following this, use a disinfectant or sanitiser that meets British Standard EN 1276:1997 or British Standard EN 13697:2001 (this information should be found on the label of the product).

It is important that you use the disinfectant/sanitiser in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

Any badly damaged, cracked or chipped crockery or equipment cannot be cleaned properly, so must be disposed of.

Some equipment, although in sound working order, may not be easy to clean and disinfect. Equipment such as fridges, freezers etc. where the motor or fan is located in, or directly connects with, the main body of the unit must be disposed of if the motor or fan has been in contact with floodwater. It is not possible to clean and disinfect this equipment adequately.

Where equipment has a smooth interior, and does not connect directly with a motor or fan, then it may be possible to properly clean and disinfect the unit. Contact us if you are unsure and need advice.

If door seals to fridges or freezers are damaged they cannot be adequately cleaned and disinfected. The seals must be replaced before the unit is used. If it is not possible to replace the seals then the unit must be discarded.

You should contact your insurance company before disposing of any equipment. If you are in any doubt about the need for disposal, or whether equipment can be cleaned/disinfected properly, please contact us for advice.

Health and safety

You should not use any electrical equipment or electric circuits (e.g. sockets, light switches) that have been flooded until they have been checked and declared safe by a qualified electrician.

It is important that gas appliances are inspected by a GAS SAFE registered engineer before they are used. The appliances may look and appear to be working normally, but the flue or ventilation systems which are essential for normal operation may have been affected by floodwater.