Information Regarding Flooded Produce

— Written By

Dear Agents,

With all the rain that is occurring you may get questions from farmers experiencing flooding in their produce fields. In order to help the growers, refer to the guidance issued by FDA. The guidance document can be found in the following link:

Evaluating the Safety of Flood-affected Food Crops for Human Consumption

This document provides definitions for terms used when water comes into a produce field and/or touches the edible portion of the crop. It discusses actions to take by the grower based on whether the field got flooded or water is pooled. Misidentifying those terms has both public health and economic consequences to farmers. We share this information to make all Agents aware that produce that has been flooded (according to the guidance document) is considered adulterated and cannot be sold.

From guidance:

  1. Safety of food crops when flood waters contacted the edible portions of the crops

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 (Ref. 1, 2, 3).

This applies to ALL food crops, including:

  • Surface crops such as leafy greens, tomatoes, string beans, berries, and corn;
  • Underground crops, such as peanuts, potatoes, carrots, and garlic[2];
  • Crops with a hard outer skin or shell, such as watermelon and winter squash[3];
  • Grains, nuts, corns, and similar products stored in bulk[4];
  • Others.

On a related note, third parties may call and ask about the extent and severity of flooding in your counties and that is ok to discuss, but sharing specific farm locations and damage information can pose a business risk to farmer and should not be done.

If a farmer has specific questions please do not hesitate to contact your Area Specialized Agents or the Produce Safety Office of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at (919)614-3082.

Area Specialized Agents – Produce Safety

Elena Rogers (Western half of NC)- cell (828)352-2519,
Dr. Chip Simmons (Eastern half of NC)- cell (919)414-5632,

We also have a post in the NC Fresh Produce Safety website about this topic.

Stay safe and we look forward to working with you,

Elena and Chip

Elena Rogers
Area Specialized Agent
Food Safety – Fresh Produce
Western NC
Department of Horticultural Science
NC State Extension
120 Hospital Ave. NE #1
Lenoir, NC 28645

O: 828-757-8620
C: 828-352-2519