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From: Food Quality & Safety magazine, October/November 2005

"Thar She Blows!"

First it was Katrina, and then came Rita, and both hurricanes made for perhaps one of the worst we have ever seen for natural disasters.

by Henry C. Carsberg, P.S.

So much devastation in human life, homes, businesses, property, even entire cities destroyed, not to mention the complete disruption of the lives of the ones, who have gone through it all. As bad and destructive as the hurricanes were, it is really just the beginning of what could be a real tragedy in the making. I have a difficult time trying to understand why the mayor of New Orleans was so intent on reopening the town, knowing the levies could collapse, but especially with the possibility of another storm approaching that subsequently re-flooded the city.

My serious concern now is the aftermath of the destruction and the probability of poor sanitation. I cannot cover all aspects of the sanitation impact on New Orleans in just this one issue. The situation is extremely complicated, and not only affects New Orleans, but the entire South.

With so much to deal with let’s just take one thing at a time, examine it, and later we can discuss the impact.

Water: When the levies broke, untreated water entered the drinking water system. In many areas in the South, wells have been contaminated, in some cases with sewage. Water purification is most important, as disease can almost certainly be contracted from contaminated water. The water supply must first be safe for an area to be habitable.

Sewage: Sewer and waste systems were damaged or destroyed. What happened to the sewage? It probably entered the water system, entered homes, food plants, restaurants and the entire food chain.

Decaying bodies: Have all the bodies been recovered? How many are missing? To retrieve those that perished must be a priority, in order to protect the resident well-being. One of the many problems is that the deceased are buried in the mud, as is the sewage and anyone who walks through the mud, is transporting bacteria everywhere they go. Can you prevent it? No, but it can be controlled. Best Sanitizers provides a personal sanitation system that is worn on the belt like a holster. Rescue workers and others can now sanitize their hands, etc. with this convenient system.

Food Source: Food in restaurants, food plants and raw materials must be tested for contamination. Since all the electricity was out, refrigeration was not working, and food spoiled. Seafood, meat and RTE products are especially affected, as well as produce. Any food supplies entering these areas must be protected from contamination. Every restaurant, public eating establishment, food plant, food warehouse, etc. must be cleaned and sanitized before any food product enters the establishment. This includes liquor, wine and soft drinks. The exterior of these items should be cleaned and sanitized prior to opening, because if there are any pathogens present on the outside of the container, as soon as the product is opened, bacteria will enter the product. Due to the humidity and the temperature, not just pathogens will exist but also yeast and molds, and also spoilage bacteria. As you can see, this is more complicated and covers a wider area that we can imagine. A detailed comprehensive plan, along with good sanitation management can make the food supply safer.

The South: All those who remained in New Orleans after Katrina hit or moved on to elsewhere will most likely take the contamination of New Orleans with them. This also applies to the wiped out areas of Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and the southern coast of Texas. They have the same problems and the same potential to transmit disease. So, we can see, that the area affected, as well as a much wider reach is in jeopardy. If the food source, water, sewer and other concerns are not addressed in an expedient manner, the residents of these areas will never reach a level that is “ABOVE THE BEST” because they will be too ill.

In the next issue, I’ll continue discussing aftermath concerns.

Henry Carsberg is a sanitation consultant with more than 30 years of experience. He welcomes feedback on his column and can be reached at abovethebest@comcast.net.

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