Flooded Gardens

Flood water is dirty. It not only has harmful germs that can cause illness, it could hold raw sewage and chemical residues such as gasoline, oil, detergents, or pesticides. Crops and other foods that have come in contact with flood water may have pathogens, and you should not eat them. Avoid any risk of getting sick by throwing away all produce that has touched flood water.

Flooding occurs when water from rivers, lakes, or streams overflows and runs into fields. Floods from runoff are likely to have chemical and biological contaminants including pathogens from human and animal waste. You should throw away any produce you will eat raw or uncooked, no matter the level of maturity.  Examples include soft fruits, melons, tomatoes, berries, leafy vegetables, lettuce, and spinach. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there is no acceptable method of washing or sanitizing produce contaminated by flood waters that will give any assurance of food safety. In addition, you should not preserve any flood-damaged produce by dehydrating, freezing, or canning.

Standing water that occurs after a heavy rainfall when the ground becomes saturated and water pools on the surface of the ground is not flooding. This type of pooled water can lessen yields and sometimes kill plants, but usually does not result in contamination from pathogens.

Find more information on food safety after a flood at your local Extension office and the reference links below.

Source:  Annhall Norris, Extension Specialist, Food Preservation and Safety