Food and Drinking Water Safety in a Radiation Emergency

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Eat food in sealed containers (cans, bottles, boxes, etc). Unspoiled food in your refrigerator or freezer is also safe to eat. Food in a pantry or drawer away from radioactive material is safe to eat.

  • Wipe off food containers with a damp cloth or clean towel before opening them. Put the used cloth or towel in a plastic bag or other sealable container and place the bag in an out-of-the-way place, away from other people and pets.
  • Wipe off counters, places, pots, and utensils with a damp cloth or clean towel before using them. Put the used cloth or towel in a plastic bag or other sealable container and place the bag in an out-of-the-way place, away from other people and pets.
  • Do not pick or eat food from your garden until emergency officials determine it is safe to do so.
Pet Food Safety
  • Just like people’s food, pet food in sealed containers (cans, bottles, boxes) will be safe for animals to eat.
  • Wipe off pet food containers with a damp cloth or clean towel before opening them. Wipe off pet bowls, dishes and mats too. Put the used cloth or towel in a plastic bag or other sealable container and place the bag in an out-of-the-way place, away from other people and pets.
Water Safety

Scientists will test drinking water supplies to make sure they are safe. Until those results are available, bottled water is the only water that is free of contamination.

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Boiling tap water does not get rid of radioactive material. You should have bottled water in your emergency supplies.

  • You can drink water, juices, or other drinks in sealed containers. Drinks in your refrigerator or freezer are also safe to drink. The package protects the liquid inside from radioactive material.
  • If you think the container or package may have radioactive material on the outside, use a damp cloth or clean towel to wipe it off before opening it. Put the used cloth or towel in a plastic bag or other sealable container and place the bag in an out-of-the-way place, away from other people and pets.
  • Water in other containers in your home, such as a toilet tank or hot water heater will also be free of radioactive material.
    • You can still use tap or well water for cleaning yourself and your food.
      • Even if the tap water is contaminated, you can still use it for decontamination. Any radioactive material that gets into surface water or ground water sources will be diluted to very low levels by the water and will be safe to use for washing skin, hair, and clothing.

Even if the tap water is uncontaminated, public health officials may recommend that you drink bottled water instead of tap water.

Page last reviewed: April 22, 2020
Content source: National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH), Emergency Management, Radiation, and Chemical Branch