Major floods have occurred over the past weeks along the east coast of Australia.

The Fresh Produce Safety Centre (FPSC) has compiled a list of resources for managing fresh produce food safety during and after floods and major rains.

FPSC Chair Andreas Klieber said it is important to keep a focus on managing food safety after floods.

β€œWe have compiled a list of resources for industry on this issue. It’s important that those along the supply chain including growers, packers and processors, understand the risks associated with potential contamination with floodwater and what to do about it,” Dr Klieber said.

Key principles for produce safety after floods are:

  • It is highly likely that flooded growing sites will have been contaminated by floodwaters that may contain sewerage, animal waste, dead animals and decaying vegetative waste.
  • Testing usually focuses on coli as a general indicator of faecal contamination. Presence of more than 10 colony forming units (cfu) E. coli in 1g of the produce indicate there may be an issue and further investigation is necessary.
  • If recent storms have caused damage and floodwater contacted the edible part of the product, then testing before harvest may indicate whether gross contamination has occurred.
  • Produce that has come into contact with floodwater should not be harvested unless it meets limits of coli <10cfu/g and Salmonella Not Detected/25 g, or meets customer specifications.
  • If it meets these limits, then a pathogen reduction treatment (e.g. wash with sanitiser) should be applied postharvest.
  • Check all water sources regularly and strictly follow microbial limits for the use of water:
  • coli <1 cfu/100 ml – Potable water limit for final wash or single-step wash and other applications (e.g. cooling, waxing and icing) if food will (or may) be eaten uncooked. Limit for hand washing water and cleaning of tools and equipment.
  • coli <100 cfu/100ml – Limit for final wash or single step wash and other post-harvest applications if produce is always eaten cooked.

Resources on managing food safety during and after floods: