As Tropical Storm Elsa makes its way up the U.S. Southeast, farmers have to prepare for the impact of the severe weather on their crops.

Growers are responsible for assuring the safety of flood-affected food crops for human consumption, which makes guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration critically important. 

The FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition has resources to help growers who may be affected by Elsa.

The FDA’s Guidance for Industry: Evaluating the Safety of Flood-affected Food Crops for Human Consumption provides information that producers can use as they assess potential damage to their food crops.

The FDA reminds harvesters that generally, if the edible portion of a crop is exposed to flood waters, it is considered “adulterated” under the Federal, Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and should not enter the human food supply. This applies to all food crops including underground commodities such as potatoes.  

Crops that were in or near flooded areas but where flood waters did not contact the edible portions of the crops, the growers should evaluate the safety of the crops for human consumption on a case-by-case basis for possible food safety concerns. 

Crops harvested from flooded fields are often unacceptable because of contamination. Flood waters — which are different from pooled rain water — may contain sewage, pathogenic organisms, pesticides, chemical wastes, or other toxic substances. 

Mold growth is another serious concern for flood impacted crops intended for use in human and animal food. Some molds produce mycotoxins, which are toxic to certain animals and people.

Salvaged crops for animal food
Sometimes, crops that have been harvested and then subsequently deemed unsuitable for human use can be salvaged for animal food. The FDA will work with producers to consider requests to recondition an adulterated crop into animal food on a case-by-case basis. The FDA’s compliance guide provides a step-by-step process for reconditioning requests. Those requests should be directed to the following individuals in the relevant FDA field office. 

For contamination events occurring in Florida:

  • Ramon Hernandez, 787-579-4289
  • Sonia Monges, 407-744-2002
  • Nelson Venerio, 407-415-8415

For contamination events occurring in South Carolina or North Carolina:

  • Ingrid Zambrana, 404-242-5468
  • Wilbur Huggins, 404-626-5586

For contamination events occurring in Virginia:

  • Lieutenant Commander Valeria Moore, 410-779-5464

For more information:

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