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Organic Certification and Food Safety Status of Flooded Farmland

by Jane Sooby |

In the wake of the atmospheric river that hit California with a series of intense storms in early January, many people had questions about the status of organically certified ground and about the safety of food grown in flooded fields.

Flooding should not impact the organic certification status of a parcel of land, and flooded parcels will maintain their certification unless it is surrendered, suspended, or revoked. Growers who had their fields flooded will likely not be required to go through the three-year transition after flooding, but certifiers will need to evaluate each farm on a case-by-case basis. Growers impacted by flooding should contact their certifier to discuss their situation.

Under U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules, if the edible part of a crop is exposed to floodwater, the crop is considered “adulterated” and should not enter the human food supply. Best food safety practice is to dispose of any crops directly contacted by floodwater and any crops within 30 feet of flooded areas. Growers shouldn’t replant until 60 days after the flooding, unless soil tests show that the soil is free from pathogens; then growers must wait only 30 days before replanting. 

If floodwater contacted or submerged a well head, it’s a good idea to test the well water for pathogens.

For additional information, contact your certifier and refer to this FDA Guidance for Industry: Evaluating the Safety of Flood-Affected Food Crops for Human Consumption.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice or food safety guidance. Instead, information is provided for general informational purposes only. Contact your organic certifier, food safety certifier, or state food safety program for definitive guidance.