Flooding and Food Safety by Erin Holliman

Article Courtesy of Erin Holliman, Food Safety Specialist, Produce Food Safety Services (PFSS), Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.  TFVA thought this information valuable to our membership.

With all the rain and flooding lately, east coast growers need to address some pretty scary issues that may be going on in their fields.

If any flooding has occurred on your produce fields, immediate action needs to take place. Wells and other irrigation sources may be subject to runoff from other areas which could be flourishing with E. coli and other possible pathogens likely for contamination. Testing or retesting of your water sources could prevent any issues with water quality of irrigation and/or spray fill up stations. Water quality is a very important part of Food Safety on your farm and should be addressed if a risk is detected.

Flooded field areas near cemeteries, landfills, nuclear sites, and other high risk areas should be addressed with a risk assessment. If you as a grower feel that the risk is high, you may need to consider other options for your produce. Adding a product testing schedule for heavy metals and pathogens may be helpful to reduce the risk of shipping adulterated product.

Although it is a definite cut in profits, flooded areas should not be harvested unless further steps to reduce pathogens are in place at the packing level. A few extra dollars is NOT worth the chance of potentially making a consumer sick or worse, killing them! It is up to the Farmer to be responsible with the flooded produce fields.
Packers and shippers that receive produce from potentially flooded areas should make sure the farmers they are buying from know the risks involved with contaminated product and are not harvesting those areas.