RALEIGH, N.C. – Farmers whose crops were flooded by Tropical Storm Fred face not only the prospect of lower yields and loss of quality, but also the reality that those crops cannot be used for human food.
“Floodwater may contain sewage, harmful organisms, pesticides, chemical wastes or other substances,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Also, wet foods may grow mold, which can produce toxins that can harm humans and animals.”
Crops and commodities exposed to floodwaters are considered adulterated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and cannot enter human food channels. They also cannot be used for animal feed unless they pass a testing protocol.
FDA provides the following guidance on crops and commodities exposed to flood waters:
“If the edible portion of a crop is exposed to flood waters, 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.”
The FDA guidance applies to all food crops, including:
- Surface crops such as leafy greens, tomatoes and corn;
- Underground crops such as peanuts and sweet potatoes;
- Crops with a hard-outer skin, such as watermelon and winter squash; and
- Commodities such as grains, nuts, corn and similar products stored in bulk.
The FDA guidance applies to crops that were flooded with water from rivers, creeks or streams. Pooled water, or rainwater that has collected in the field, is different from floodwater and is not likely to contaminate field crops.
Farmers should contact their local Cooperative Extension agents for further information and guidance. Contact information for local offices can be found at https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/