The state of Florida produces more fresh fruits and vegetables than any other state except California, and is the top tomato state in the country. As with backyard gardens, Hurricane Irma has turned many of Florida’s commercial fruit and vegetable fields into patches of pathogens that can’t be washed away.
Even the thick rinds of pumpkins and melons cannot protect the edible portion of the produce if it has been exposed to floodwater.
From the Food and Drug Administration to county extension agents, experts on fresh produce are warning of the dangers of eating fresh produce that has been touched by floodwaters.
“Fresh fruits and vegetables that have been inundated by flood waters cannot be adequately cleaned and should be destroyed,” according to the FDA.
“There is no practical method of reconditioning the edible portion of a crop that will provide a reasonable assurance of human food safety. Therefore, the FDA recommends that these crops be disposed of in a manner that ensures they are kept separate from crops that have not been flood damaged to avoid adulterating ‘clean’ crops.”
Floodwaters contain a cocktail of pathogens and parasites, including E. coli, Salmonella, typhoid and cholera.
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