Following a series of recent wildfires across the western United States, the government is reminding people that fire can compromise the safety of foods in the home. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Monday issued a warning to the estimated 2 million Americans whose homes will be affected by fires each year. “A fire in the home can expose foods to toxic fumes and chemicals, making them unsafe to eat,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elizabeth Hagen in a statement Monday. For this reason, any food stored in permeable packaging such as cardboard or plastic wrap should be thrown away, says FSIS. That goes for refrigerated food too. “Surprisingly, food stored in refrigerators or freezers can also become contaminated by fumes,” warns the agency. “The refrigerator seal isn’t airtight and fumes can get inside. If food from your refrigerator has an off-flavor or odor, throw it away.” Food in cans or jars is also subject to harmful effects from fires, as high temperatures can trigger the growth of food spoilage bacteria in these containers. The best rule of thumb is: “When in doubt, throw it out,” says the FSIS warning. Chemicals used to fight fires can also pose a threat to foods and cookware, it adds. Food that has come into contact with firefighting chemicals should be discarded, as it cannot be cleaned. This includes items in permeable containers and screw-top jars. Canned foods and cookware, on the other hand, can be decontaminated. Wash these items with detergent before soaking them in a bleach solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach to every gallon of water for 15 minutes. For more information on post-fire food safety, visit FSIS’s information page.