Food Crops Exposed to Flood Waters are Adulterated, FDA Says

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Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

Given the heavy rain that has recently affected some parts of the country, some farmers may be wondering how they should handle food crops that were exposed to flood waters. DTN reports that heavy rain fell in Southern Minnesota, southern Wisconsin and northern Iowa during the third week of September. The rain led to flooding in fields and roads, and delayed harvest for a number of farmers.

There are U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines regarding crops exposed to flood waters. “Assuring the safety of flood-affected food crops for human consumption is the responsibility of the growers that produce and market these crops.” the agency states.

According to the FDA, a crop is considered adulterated if the edible portion is exposed to flood waters. The agency says there is no reliable way to “recondition” the food crop once it has been exposed, and it should therefore be disposed of properly. “If the edible portion of a crop is exposed to flood waters, it is considered adulterated under section 402(a) (4) (21 U.S.C. 342(a) (4) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act 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 agency states.

According to DTN, the Minnesota Grain and Feed Association commented on the situation in a recent newsletter “Given recent heavy rains and flooding in southern Minnesota, grain buyers need to be reminded that the FDA has policies related to flood-damaged grain. The FDA considers flood water to be inherently unsanitary and deems grains, oilseeds, feed and feed ingredients (including distillers grain) and food that has been in contact with flood water, to be unfit for human consumption or animal feed unless reconditioned (in the case of animal feed). This includes grain and oilseeds that might be destined for an ethanol plant or soybean processor because of the resultant use of the co-products (DDGs and soybean meal) in animal feed.”

Food crops that make contact with flood waters can present a public health risk. The flood waters may contain hazardous substances, such as sewage, heavy metals pathogenic microorganisms or other contaminants. The edible portion may be contaminated even if the crop itself is not completely submerged. Additionally, plants may take up harmful chemicals in the flood water. Mold and other toxins may also develop due to flood water exposure.
For farmers whose crops were in or near flooded areas that did not contact flood waters, the FDA recommends that the safety of each crop be determined on a case-by-case basis. “We encourage growers to work with state regulators and local FDA offices to assess their unique situations and to take into consideration all possible types and routes of contamination from flood waters in determining whether a particular crop is adulterated,” the agency stated.