Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Information on Harvesting Flooded Crops in Western NC

Unfortunately, all I had to do was look back at my September 2004 emails to find most of this information for you! My heart goes out to all of you who are losing crops to flood waters at this time.

Harvesting Decisions for Flooded Crops

Crops intended for human consumption are considered contaminated if they have been covered with flood waters from rivers, creeks or streams. Growers should distinguish between rainwater that accumulates on a field because of excessive rainfall versus fields covered by flood waters from risen rivers, creeks or streams. Flood waters can carry potential contaminants from off-site sources. Fields covered by flood waters are distinctly different from fields where rainwater has accumulated in low areas. Standing waters often occur after heavy rain.

The present concern is for crops which have been in direct contact with flood waters from risen rivers, creeks or streams which may be contaminated with runoff such as human or animal waste, petroleum products, pesticides or industrial chemicals.

If the crop is in standing water from accumulated rainwater, not flooding from rivers or streams, keep in mind that most fruits and vegetables are subject to damage or decay if they are flooded for more than a couple days. In that case, the crop will either be in a state of deterioration, or it will not cure and store properly. In effect, these conditions will render most of the flood affected crop unharvestable or unmarketable.

Before cleaning up or destroying crops in flooded fields, check with your crop insurance and/or their local Farm Services Agency (FSA) representatives regarding exact documentation to certify losses, procedures for initiating claims, possible financial assistance.

If you have questions, contact your county extension agent, your local FSA or crop insurance representatives, or the Food and Drug Protection Division of NCDA&CS at 919-733-7366.

Here is information direct from the FDA on the topic:
http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodDefense/Emergencies/FloodsHurricanesPowerOutages/ucm112723.htm:

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that certain foods exposed to flood waters, 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 flood waters 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. The information follows.

FOODS THAT SHOULD BE DESTROYED:
Crops
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.

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 flood waters, may need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Factors to consider in the evaluation include:

What is the source of flood waters and are there potential upstream contributors of human pathogens and/or chemical contaminants?

Type of crop and stage of growth, e.g., is the edible portion of the crop developing? How far above the ground does the lowest edible portion grow?

Were conditions such that 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 flood waters. These flood damaged products should not be used for human and animal food.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables that have been inundated by flood waters 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. These food items may be considered for diversion to animal feed under certain circumstances.

There is an excellent document on Salvaging Flooded Crops by Dr. John Rushing. I have posted it under "Late Breaking News" on both the http://ncherb.org/ and http://ncorganic.org/ websites.

Two more articles that may be helpful:

A 2008 article from University of Wisconsin food safety extension specialists on harvesting flooded gardens:
http://www.uwex.edu/ces/ag/issues/documents/SafetyofProducefromFloodedGardens08.pdf

A 2008 article from Purdue Extension:
http://www.ces.purdue.edu/CES/Marion/Hort/FloodedFoodGardenPlants2008.pdf

Sue Colucci, area extension agent, has also posted some important information concerning flooded crops on her blog at http://wncveggies.blogspot.com/2009/09/flooding.html.

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