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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Check Food for Fire Damage

LAS CRUCES - Food that survived a fire can have heat, smoke or chemical damage, making it unsafe to eat.


Carefully examine all food that's been through a fire before using it, said Martha Archuleta, food and nutrition specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service.

Food in freezers and refrigerators might look fine but should be treated with caution if the power went off.

"When perishable food is at temperatures higher than 40 degrees for more than two hours, it can become unsafe to eat because bacteria can grow," Archuleta said. "In terms of questionable food, we should always follow the same rule: If in doubt, throw it out."

High temperatures can also damage foods in the pantry.

"The heat itself could cause damage to the food or containers," she said. "Glass or cans could rupture." Make sure can lids and seams are intact and discard bulging or leaking containers.

Food can also sustain smoke damage. "Basically, the smoke is as harmful to food as it is to breathe," Archuleta said. "Also, if food is exposed to chemicals that are used to fight the fire, the food will be unsafe."

Undamaged cans or glass jars can be cleaned to remove soot, she said.

"If it looks like a normally shaped can, wash it thoroughly in hot, soapy water, then soak the can for 15 minutes in a bleach solution with about one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water." The same solution can be used to clean cookware that has been through a fire.

Food losses can usually be claimed as lost goods on an insurance claim, Archuleta said.