After a house fire you’re very likely trying to salvage as much as possible, especially possessions with sentimental value, family heirlooms, and important documents. But what about the items inside of your pantry? Is food that’s only been exposed to smoke safe to eat? Here’s what’s unsafe and should be thrown out.


Foods Exposed to Heat, Smoke, and Firefighting Chemicals

Although you may have pantry items that were only exposed to smoke from a fire, they should be thrown out. Foods that have been exposed to extreme heat, smoke, or firefighting chemicals should be tossed. Open and unopened items that are packaged in containers made of materials like cardboard, thin plastic, or cloth are all able to be penetrated by toxic fumes, which can contaminate their contents.


While non-perishables like cans and jars may seem to be fine after a fire, if any of them were near the intense heat of the flames, they may not be safe to eat because extreme heat can trigger bacteria that cause food to spoil, even if the can or jar isn’t damaged. Those items should be disposed of, too.


Be sure to thoroughly inspect your kitchen and toss out any foods that you suspect have become contaminated by heat, smoke, water, or firefighting chemicals. If you find foods that are charred, cans that bulge or are rusted, or dust from a fire extinguisher on food items, they should be thrown out.


Contents of a Refrigerator Penetrated by Soot and Smoke

When it comes to refrigerated foods, even if your power goes out during a fire, if your fridge isn’t damaged and it seals well it can keep your foods at safe temps for around four hours. However, you should throw out its contents if you open it and you encounter: a smoky smell, soot, foods with an odd odor or flavor, or freezer items that aren’t cold and hard and have no ice crystals. If your fridge lost power and your foods were above 40 degrees for more than two hours, throw them out.

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