US: Feed safety concerns continues after flooding

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/ellenamani
© iStock/ellenamani

Related tags Water

Floodwaters may mean stored feed and feed crops in Texas and surrounding areas need to be destroyed to maintain feed safety, says FDA.

The FDA’s Center of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) warned​ producers Tuesday about risk to feed use and feed crop growth as flooding continues in parts of Texas and neighboring areas.

“The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that certain foods exposed to flood waters, and perishable foods that are not adequately refrigerated, are adulterated and should not enter the human food supply,”​ they agency said. “In addition, crops and other food commodities exposed to flood waters would not be acceptable for use in animal feed.”

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, now Tropical Storm Harvey, there have been reports​ of flooding in several parts of Texas, according to information from the National Weather Service with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Preliminary storm total rainfall in locations like Houston is being reported at 49.32 inches and rain continues to fall in parts of the state.

The continuing rain is expected to prolong flooding, the agency said. “Historic flooding is likely on many area rivers and bayous,” ​it added.

Potential effects from flooding continue across parts of southeast Texas, the agency said.

Feed safety considerations

When stored gain and field crops are submerged in floodwater, they may be exposed to contaminants including sewage, chemicals, heavy metals and pathogenic microorganisms, said the FDA.

“Even if the crop is not completely submerged, there may still be microbial contamination of the edible portion of the crop,” ​the agency said. “There is also the potential for plants to take up chemical contaminants.”

Additionally, with the presence of contaminants, there is potential that mold and toxins may develop from water exposure, the agency said. Some grains and feed crops may need to be tossed after flooding.

“Grains and similar products stored in bulk can also be damaged by flood waters,” ​the agency said. “These flood damaged products should not be used for human and animal food.”

If the edible portion of a field crop is exposed to flood water then it is considered adulterated, said the FDA. The recommendation is that these crops be disposed of in a way that keeps them separate from non-flood damaged feed crops.

Feed crops that experience flooding of a lesser degree, where the edible portion is not submerged likely will need to be evaluated individually, said the agency. However, questions to consider include the source of the floodwater; the potential for sources of human pathogens or chemical contaminants to be in the water; how far above the ground is the lowest edible portion of the plant; and if conditions are supportive of fungal growth.  

Pasture and feeding methods

Additionally, there may be some lasting considerations needed and damage to pasture land in the region, said Joe Paschal, livestock specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

“Low-lying areas will be inundated by salt water,” ​he told us previously. “When we had Hurricane Rita [in 2005] we had thousands of acres saturated with salt and those pastures took years to come back.”

Rain in areas flooded by seawater may help wash away some of the salt, he said. “But based on experience you can have oil field sites that overflow or sewer tanks overflow and can have contamination of some parts of fields,”​ he added.

Mechanisms like windmills that maintain water in cattle pastures also may see damage and need to be repaired or replaced, he said. “The source of freshwater is going to be a concern in a lot of pastures because of saltwater or the destruction of the watering device,”​ he added.

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