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Health Unit Recommends Caution Against Foodborne and Waterborne Illness in Areas Affected by Power Outage

PORT HOPE, ON (May 24, 2022) - With power still out in sections of Central Ontario due to the severe weekend storm, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR District Health Unit) urges everyone to use precautions when it comes to water and food safety.

“We know that wide areas of our region continue to be without power, so we encourage everyone to err on the side of caution and be careful and cautious when it comes to food and water safety,” says Bernie Mayer, Manager of Health Protection, with the HKPR District Health Unit.

The HKPR District Health Unit is strongly recommending the following food and water precautions:

Food Safety for Businesses and Residents

“When it comes to food safety during a power outage, the best advice is: if in doubt about the safety of food, throw it out,” Mayer says.

For businesses:
Businesses that do not have adequate back-up generators to operate their refrigeration, ventilation, water treatment equipment, water and sewage system pumps and other essential equipment must remain closed until power is restored.

  • Any food items stored in coolers or fridges that were not working for an extended period during the power outage should not be sold to the public.
  • Instead, these items should be disposed of safely.

For questions or concerns please contact a Public Health Inspector at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5006.

For residents in homes and cottages:

  • Keep fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the temperature inside. Without power, refrigerators can keep food cold for only 12-24 hours if they are kept shut. However, some food will start to spoil and become unsafe to eat after this time. Foods that are more likely to spoil include dairy (including milk) and meat products. These should be thrown out to prevent illness, as should any other food items that are discoloured or smell bad.
  • Freezers (chest or fridge-freezer combination) can typically keep food frozen for one to two days if they remain closed. After this time, it is important to check over any food. Any items that have been at room temperature for more than two hours should be thrown out. Partially thawed frozen food can be safely refrozen, although its quality may be affected.
  • If possible, add bags of ice to the fridge/freezer to keep temperatures cooler should power be out for a longer period. You can also consider transferring food items that could spoil easily to a cooler with ice, being sure to replace the ice frequently to keep food cold (ideally at 4C or 40F).
  • Play it safe and throw out any food that you think may have spoiled. Eating unsafe foods may cause foodborne illness.

Private Well Water

For people who rely on a well for their drinking water, the following advice is being given:

  • Most residences that use well water rely on an electrical pump to move the water into the home. Power may also be needed for some water treatment systems (e.g. Ultraviolet light), During a power outage, the pump and treatment systems will be impacted, meaning no water is available.
  • In these cases, people are encouraged to use bottled water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth and any other activities that involve the consumption of water.
  • When power is restored to the pump, ensure that the treatment system is working. Once power is back on, run the water for approximately five minutes before using to flush out the water line to ensure it is safe. This is important, as flushing your plumbing system removes any untreated water that may still be in there.
  • It is also advisable to get your well water tested as soon as possible after a power outage to ensure it is safe for drinking. Pick up your well water testing kits and drop off samples any Health Unit office in Lindsay, Port Hope and Cobourg, or at other locations in the area.

Private Septic Systems

  • Some on-site septic systems use pumps that run on electricity. Pumps move waste through the system and into the leaching bed or treatment unit. If you’re still using water in your home, remember that septic and pump tanks will continue to fill with waste-water. If the tanks get too full, the effluent could back up into the home. Limit water use until power is restored.

Pool or Hot Tubs

  • A power outage can impact the recirculation systems in pools and hot tubs, affecting their operation and safety. Avoid using a pool or hot tub during a power outage.
  • If needed, contact a credible recreational water supplier for more information once the electricity is restored.

Other Safety Tips

  • Check on older relatives or neighbour to ensure they are OK while the power is off.
  • Do not use camp stoves, lanterns or barbecues indoors. These devices pose a safety risk from carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If using a portable generator, ensure it is only used outdoors in a well-ventilated area away from windows and fresh air intakes. You should not connect a generator to your electrical panel unless it has previously been installed by a qualified electrician.


For media inquiries, contact:

Bernie Mayer, Manager of Health Protection, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577, ext. 1243.

About the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit provides important public health programs and services to residents in Northumberland County, Haliburton County, and the City of Kawartha Lakes. Our dedicated team of public health professionals, led by our Medical Officer of Health, promote healthy living, protect against disease, and prevent illness and injury. We work with health care providers and community partners to address emerging health issues, service gaps and social inequities to support residents in being well and reaching their full potential. Our values of trust, engagement, accountability, and leadership guide what we do every day. Learn more at

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