Food businesses affected by flooding

Food premises that have been affected by flood water may be wholly or partly unsuitable for use in the days and weeks following flooding incidents. This guidance tells you some key points to consider, use the drop-down menu below to find out more.

If your food business has been flooded there could be a serious risk to public health from infection and food contamination. Do not prepare any food or reopen the establishment until the premises have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and the affected food has been disposed of. The flood water may be heavily contaminated with sewerage, harmful bacteria, and other pollutants, such as oil, petrol, and so on.

Don't forget that tackling floodwater can be dangerous. Always think about how you are going to prevent injury or illness before you start clearing up.

  • Plan your clean-up work - undertake a risk assessment of the work to be undertaken and put in controls to safeguard those that will undertake the work. Provide clear instructions to your employees as to what work is to be carried out and how to undertake it. Provide appropriate protective equipment e.g. gloves / over clothing / washing facilities / disinfectants and instructions on how to use them. Be clear on what is not to be carried out if dangerous or areas are not to be touched until later.
  • Asbestos - is not normally harmful unless disturbed. However, floodwaters can damage the integrity of buildings, exposing asbestos fibres contained in flooring, walls, and ceilings. This can cause a serious risk to health. If this happens asbestos needs to be removed safely as soon as possible. You should not attempt to remove it yourself, only trained specialists should remove asbestos. Further information about asbestos can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.
  • Do not use your home vacuum to remove water – electrical shock can result, as well as damage to the equipment. Hire appropriate equipment and follow instructions on how to use it.
  • Wear waterproof clothing that can be washed or old clothes that can be thrown away if they become muddy – floodwater contains raw sewage and unknown chemicals
  • Wear strong rubber gloves
  • Wear boots with good grips and tread carefully to avoid slipping
  • Take care to avoid tripping over debris and submerged objects
  • Because drain covers may have been removed check your step forward into mud or water using a pole
  • Take extra care when climbing stairs or using ladders
  • Do not go near moving water – wait for it to subside
  • Have gas and electric systems checked for safety before using them (see below)
  • Thoroughly wash hands and shower when you have finished. Wash / dispose of contaminated clothes and keep them separate to avoid contaminating other locations.
  • If you become ill or suffer any gastric symptoms following the cleanup, contact your GP as soon as possible. Nobody should handle or prepare food if they are suffering from gastric illness, such as diarrhoea and vomiting until they are 48 hours clear of their symptoms.

The following help and advice will help you get back to normal as quickly as possible after a flood:

  • There may be structural damage to your property. Seek professional advice (structural engineer or building control service) if your property is damaged
  • Be aware of the risk of injury from damage such as sharp edges on tiles, or raised nails in the floorboards, until these have been repaired
  • Find details of qualified assistance, such as plumbers, electricians, suppliers of cleaning materials / equipment, and flood protection.
  • It may be necessary to contact utility suppliers to reconnect supplies. Don't use electrical circuits or equipment exposed to flood water until checked by a qualified electrician.
  • Do not enter any confined spaces, for example, cellars, where there are known oil or petrol contamination.
  • Ensure good ventilation if using portable indoor heating appliances to dry out indoor spaces. Do not use petrol or diesel generators or other similar fuel-driven equipment indoors: the exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide, which can kill.
  • If you have air bricks to any underfloor spaces, ensure that these are unblocked to give cross ventilation to these areas. As floorboards and walls continue to dry out, any loose material and dust resulting from this should be vacuumed up on a regular basis.
  • Do not dispose of damaged goods until your insurers have advised that this is appropriate.
  • Personal safety issues can sometimes be overlooked in the rush to restore the premises to normal use. Care should be taken to assess the work to be done during the recovery stage and to protect all workers and visitors at the premises. To minimise health risks, workers must be able to wash their hands properly before eating and drinking while at work and after work activities. They must be able to have access to welfare facilities.

The quality of the mains drinking water to your premises may have been affected. Severn Trent Water will be monitoring the quality of the drinking water. If you have any queries or feel you have cause to be concerned about the quality of your water supply contact them via

Any taps which have been submerged in contaminated flood water should be cleaned using a bleach solution and run for 30 seconds prior to the water being used. 1:100 dilution of 5% sodium hypochlorite is the usual recommendation. Most household bleach solutions contain 5% sodium hypochlorite (50,000 ppm* available chorine). Use 1 part bleach to 99 parts cold tap water (1:100 dilution) for disinfection of surfaces and at least a 10-minute contact time.

If you are on a private water supply and have been affected by flooding you should assume the supply may have been contaminated and is not fit to use without boiling. Even if you have a treatment method it may be that contamination is heavy. This may not be visible. The treatment method may have been unable to cope. Still treat water as contaminated and boil accordingly.

If your water supply has changed colour significantly, that is, it has gone darker in colour and / or has suspended solids in it, you should assume the supply has been exposed to higher than normal levels of surface contamination due to adverse weather conditions. You should boil all water for drinking and cooking until the supply has returned to its normal colour or obtain another water supply if Seven Trent is providing one - keep alert to any information provided by Seven Trent as to the safety of the water. If you have disinfection such as ultraviolet or another form of disinfection do not assume the supply is safe, even if running clear, as, in exceptional conditions, any equipment can be compromised.

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

  • Do not re-enter your premises until all flood water has been removed. Derbyshire Fire and Rescue may be able to help you with pumping water out of your house. Please remember others may also need this help. You may have to wait your turn. There is no point pumping out rising water as it will come straight back into the property.
  • Ventilate your building after flooding. Less damp is less damage.
  • Put on protective clothing before starting any cleanup. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling anything that may be contaminated. Ideally, use hot soapy water and liquid antibacterial soap.
  • Clean all hard surfaces, food preparation areas, surfaces, equipment, glasses, crockery, food containers, beer lines, and optics with hot soapy water several times until visually clean. This should be followed by washing down with a food-safe disinfectant. 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. You should adhere to the manufacturer's directions. Heavily contaminated items should be disposed of.
  • Chipped or damaged crockery and equipment must be taken out of use.
  • All food that may have been contaminated must be destroyed. This must be double-bagged. Ideally, it should be placed in a sealed container to prevent attracting pests.
  • Where canned and unopened packaged foods have been in contact with flood water, they must be disposed of. Don’t be tempted to use, decant, eat, sell or give away any food (including all open food, packaged food, bottled and canned food and drink products) that has come into contact with sewage or contaminated floodwater. Cans, bottles, and jars are difficult to wash and disinfect therefore do not use food in containers that have been contaminated.
  • Wooden beer casks which have been in contact at all with flood waters must be discarded. Metal beer barrels may be able to be used as long as the flood water has not reached any connected outlet or inlet. Advise your suppliers, on returning any contaminated barrels, casks, and so on, that they have been in contact with flood waters so they can take the necessary precautions.
  • Disinfect cleaning equipment including mops and buckets regularly.
  • Hot wash (at 90°C), professionally clean or dispose of any affected food handler’s clothing (i.e. aprons, hats) and other soft fabrics such as place settings, tablecloths, and napkins.
  • In cases of food loss, check with your insurance company if and how to claim the loss. If required, the Food Safety Team may be able to issue a 'voluntary surrender certificate' to help with your insurance claim.

Electrical equipment and installations can pose serious safety risks if they have been damaged by flood water.

  • Switch off/isolate electrical installations and equipment if you have not already done so.
  • Do not operate equipment that is in water or while you are standing in water.
  • Keep away from any live equipment submerged in water.
  • Have flood-damaged installations or electrical equipment checked by an approved electrical contractor before use.
  • Contact your electricity supplier if you have concerns about the supply.
  • Do not use electrical equipment or circuits for example sockets and light switches, that have been flooded until checked and declared safe by a competent electrician.

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

If possible turn off the gas control valve.

Ensure all gas appliances are turned off to minimise the possibility of water getting into the supply pipes.

It is important 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 essential for normal operation may have been adversely affected by floodwater.

Contact your insurer in the first instance, to ensure you are taking the appropriate and correct steps for dealing with any flood-damaged waste under your specific policy conditions. It is likely your insurer will need to see the damage, waste food, and equipment before it is taken away. The insurer should provide advice on what you should do with the waste. If there is a delay in your insurer being able to visit and food waste needs to be removed to avoid it becoming a public health concern, your insurer may be agreeable to an Environmental Health Officer visiting your premises to see food waste and providing you with a note that confirms what food is waste. You should also take photos of the waste. It is up to the food business operator to liaise with their insurer to determine whether this approach is acceptable for claim purposes and to follow advice from the insurer about what to do with the waste.

All waste must be removed to a secure store and waste bins prior to collection. Waste should not be allowed to build up next to bins because this will attract flies and vermin so should be collected promptly. Carriers will need to be informed of the need to collect extra food waste and extra items such as carpets and furniture.  Items such as furniture and carpets must not be allowed to accumulate for more than a few days. Where a business already has commercial arrangements in place for the collection of their waste contact your existing waste management provider for advice and support, for example, if you use Amber Valley Trade Waste contractors contact 01773 841453 or We may charge for anything above and beyond what can go in the normal bins or bags. Check if this is reclaimable on your insurance. You should check with your insurer first, as they may have specific requirements in relation to the disposal of equipment and goods.

The flood water may have disturbed rodents and created new pest entry points into your premises. This may cause damage to electrical wiring and furniture. If there is a problem, a pest control contractor should be engaged and pest proofing works undertaken.

  • Register for flood warnings - 0345 9881188
  • Insurance provider details readily available and claim details / policy number
  • Prepare a flood kit including personal protective clothing / cleaning equipment
  • Have a reputable registered gas engineer and competent electrician numbers available
  • Camera available for taking photos for insurance claim
  • Action plan drawn up in the event of flood warning being given and dealing with after mouth
  • Know how to turn off your gas and electric supply and water supply
  • Ready supply of appropriate disinfectants / cleaning equipment / gloves etc
  • Check flood protection measures are in place and are working
  • Generator hire company details
  • Professional cleaning company and flood clean-up company details (approved by your insurance company)
  • Drain clearance company information
Need further help or information?

Contact the team directly on 01773 841339 or email