Potential Flood Contamination for Vegetables

United Fresh New Zealand is advising consumers to be prepared for fresh and vegetable shortages in the coming weeks, as floodwaters in the upper North Island impact food safety. Excess rainfall will affect the quality and shelf life of many crops.

“Flooding exposes fresh produce to microbial risk. If floodwaters come in contact with the edible part of the crop, it is considered to be contaminated and will not be harvested. After the flooding subsides, growers will not harvest the affected crops and will have special protocols for disposing the affected plant matter. Replanting the land will not occur for some time until it is dry and considered suitable. These delays might result in supply gaps of some varieties,” said Anne-Marie Arts, United Fresh Food Safety Representative. 

Crops ready to pick right now will be quarantined until they are declared safe to eat by microbial testing. Home gardens must also take precautions.

“Whether it’s a commercial farm or a home vegetable garden, floodwaters present a real risk to the health of your whānau. Floodwaters can flush through sewer systems and across rural land collecting human and animal waste. The waters may contain pathogens that can make you seriously ill. We’re advising anyone with a home garden that may have had floodwater enter to throw away affected plants immediately.”

The severe weather comes on top of a summer of rainy conditions which have already impacted the supply and price of fresh vegetables nationwide. 

“Growers follow strict protocols to ensure the kai they provide is safe to eat. While this flood has worsened our supply situation, the whole industry will be working hard to get enough fresh vegetables to market in the coming months,” concluded Arts.