NH DHHS Issues Food Safety Advice Regarding Flooded Crops

Concord, NH - In conjunction with the NH Department of Agriculture which

advised farmers to destroy or discard all crops with edible portions that

have come in contact with flood waters after Tropical Storm Irene, the NH

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Public Health

Services is advising people with home gardens that were flooded to follow

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance.

The FDA guidance includes the following information: “If the edible portion

of a crop is exposed to flood waters, it is considered adulterated and

should not enter the 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. 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. In

addition, crops and other food commodities exposed to flood waters would

not be acceptable for use in animal feed.”

Flood waters, from rivers or streams that have overflowed their banks, are

likely to contain contaminants. These may come from upstream farms and

rural septic systems, urban lawns and roadways, industrial sites, or

overflow from municipal sewage systems and may include raw manure or feces,

agricultural chemicals, heavy metals or other chemical contaminants.

Microbial pathogens that could be in floodwaters include bacteria, viruses,

and parasites. Situations where normal pooling of water has occurred from

heavy rains, rather than flowing water, are typically not a concern.

“It is best not to take any chances with illness around contaminated food

and to reduce such risk when feasible,” said Dr. José Montero, DPHS

Director. “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Destroy or discard all crops with edible portions that have come into

contact with flood waters. Discarding of crops in proximity to, or exposed

to, a lesser degree of flooding but 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. Grains and similar products stored in bulk can also be

damaged by flood waters. These flood-damaged products should not be used

for human or animal food. Fresh fruits and vegetables that have been

inundated by flood waters cannot be adequately cleaned and should be


State Agricultural Commissioner, Lorraine Merrill said, “We encourage home

gardeners to utilize information resources available to them such as the

University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension Education Center and

Info Line. Home gardeners can get tips on garden clean up and preparing the

site for next year—1-877-EXT-GROW or answers@unh.edu.”

For more information visit the Food and Drug Administration at

www.fda.gov/Food/FoodDefense/Emergencies/FloodsHurricanesPowerOutages/ucm112723.htm ,

the Division of Public Health Services at

www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/fp/index.htm , and the NH Department of Agriculture at

www.nh.gov/agric/index.htm .