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FDA: Dispose Food Crops Exposed to Flood Water

Oct 10, 2016

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines state that foods crops exposed to flood waters are adulterated, meaning they should be thrown out due to health risks. This regulation is particularly relevant following heavy rainfall that affected certain parts of the country. Southern Minnesota, southern Wisconsin and northern Iowa, for instance, saw heavy rain in the third week of September, causing flooding in fields and roads.

When flooding occurs, it can contaminate crops with hazardous substances such as sewage, heavy metals and pathogenic microorganisms. If the edible component of the crop is only partially submerged, it is still considered unsafe to eat. DTN reports that crops can also absorb chemicals presents in the water. Furthermore, the moisture can promote the growth of mold and other toxins.

"Assuring the safety of flood-affected food crops for human consumption is the responsibility of the growers that produce and market these crops." the FDA states.

There is no method to "recondition" a crop after it has been exposed to flood water. Therefore, if the edible portion of a crop comes into contact with flood water, it is considered adulterated and should be disposed of appropriately. "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.

The Minnesota Grain and Feed Association stated "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." according to DTN.

Farmers should exercise caution if they are in or near flooded areas, the FDA said. The agency advises determining the safety of each crop on an individual 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 FDA says.

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