Major floods have occurred over the past weeks along the east coast of Australia. The FPSC has compiled a list of resources for managing fresh produce food safety during and after floods and major rains.

“It’s important to keep a focus on managing food safety after floods,” said FPSC Chair Dr. Andreas Klieber.

“We 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, chemicals and decaying vegetative waste.
  • Testing usually focuses on E. 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.
  • Where the edible part of produce has come into contact with floodwater, this should not generally be harvested for consumption. Where regulations and customer specifications permit, a rigorous risk assessment, microbial testing and a microbial reduction step (i.e. sanitiser) may allow harvest in limited cases.
  • Check all water sources regularly and strictly follow microbial limits for the use of water:
  • E. 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.
  • E. 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: