The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that certain foods exposed to floodwaters, and perishable foods that are not adequately refrigerated, are adulterated and should not enter the human food supply.
In addition, crops and other food commodities exposed to floodwaters would not be acceptable for use in animal feed. FDA is also providing guidance in determining when food products can be reconditioned for future use.
If the edible portion of a crop is exposed to floodwaters, it is considered adulterated and should not enter human food channels. There is no practical method of reconditioning the edible portion of a crop that will provide a reasonable assurance of human food safety.
Therefore, the FDA recommends that these crops be disposed of in a manner that ensures they are kept separate from crops that have not been flood damaged to avoid adulterating “clean” crops.
Disposition of crops in proximity to, or exposed to a lesser degree of flooding, where the edible portion of the crop has not come in contact with floodwaters, may need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Factors to consider in the evaluation include the source of floodwaters and whether there are potential upstream contributors of human pathogens or chemical contaminants; the type of crop, stage of growth and how far above ground the lowest edible portion grows; and whether the crop may have been exposed to prolonged periods of moisture and stress which could foster fungal growth, and possibly, development of mycotoxins.
Grains and similar products stored in bulk can also be damaged by floodwaters and should not be used for human and animal food.
Fresh fruits and vegetables that have been inundated by floodwaters cannot be adequately cleaned and should be destroyed. Fresh fruits and vegetables that have begun to spoil due to the lack of refrigeration should also be destroyed, but may be considered for diversion to animal feed under certain circumstances.
The entire set of recommendation can be found at www.fda.gov/Food/FoodDefense/Emergencies/FloodsHurricanesPowerOutages/ucm112723.htm.
More information on evaluating crops is at www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/FoodDefenseandEmergencyResponse/ucm274683.htm.
Source: Tara A. Baugher, Penn State Extension.