Flooding advice for food businesses

Guidelines from Environmental health

After flood advice

As the flood waters recede as a business you must consider the safety of yourself, your employees, the general public and contractors who enter your premises.

You must also ensure you comply with your duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 when staff are carrying out work activities that they would not normally be doing. If your premises are at risk from flooding, a risk assessment should have been carried out.

Please contact us if would like any further advice.


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.

If you require a certificate for insurance purposes, or need help with disposing of goods, then please ring the Environmental Health on 01799 510482.

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 (eg 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 may need to be disposed of if the motor or fan has been in contact with floodwater and 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.

Food Handler's Health

Seek medical advice if you or anyone connected with your business develops a gastroenteritis or an illness that can be passed on through food and drink. They will need to be excluded from food handling work if they have recently had diarrhoea or vomiting.

Drains and grease traps.

There may be residues lodged in the drainage system caused by back flow into traps and grease filters. This will need to be cleaned out.

Rodent infestations

The flood water may have disturbed rodents which could have entered your premises and caused damaged to electrical wiring and furniture. If there is a problem, a pest control contractor should be engaged

Re-opening of a food premises

Once your premises are ready to re-open for business, please let us know. We may wish to visit to ensure that food safety and the health and safety of your staff and customers can be assured and also to reassure you if you have any further concerns.

Health and safety

Electrical safety

  • Electrical equipment and electrical installations can pose serious safety risks if they have been damaged by flood water.
  • Switch off electrical installations and equipment if you have not already done so.
  • Do not operate equipment which is in water or whilst standing in water.
  • Keep away from any live equipment submerged in water.
  • Have any installations or electrical equipment which has been flood damaged checked by an approved electrical contractor before being put back into use.
  • Contact your electricity supplier if you have any concerns about the supply from the electricity meter.

Gas safety

Gas equipment and gas installations can pose safety risks if damaged by flood water.

  • If possible turn the gas control valve (usually situated adjacent to the gas meter) to the 'off'' position.
  • Ensure all gas appliances are turned off to minimise the possibility of water entering the gas supply pipes in your property.
  • It is vitally important for safety reasons to have the appliances inspected by a Gas Safe registered engineer before being put back into use. 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 adversely affected by floodwater.
  • If you can smell gas call the National Gas Emergency Service helpline operated by the National Grid on 0800 111 999.

Water supply

The quality of the drinking water to your premises may have been affected. Any taps which have been submerged in contaminated floodwater should be cleaned using a bleach solution and run for 30 seconds prior to the water being used.

If you have any queries or feel you have cause to be concerned about the quality of your water supply please contact your Water Authority direct.

Customers' Areas

The clean-up will include all affected parts of the customer areas.

Trip Hazards

Where carpets have been removed the flooring must be left free from uneven surfaces and materials that might cause slips or trips.

Flood protection - Fire Escape Doors and Access Routes

In the event of further flood warnings sand bags may be used at doorways. If a fire escape doorway is at risk of flooding stop using the part of the building that relies on the barricaded doorway. Access routes must not be blocked or obstructed with sand bags.