Salvage for feed: Guidelines for flood-affected crops

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – It has been a long, anxious wait for Pennsylvania grain producers who still have flood-affected crops in the field.
But after receiving word from the federal Food and Drug Administration, specialists in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture now can offer guidelines for growers that may help them salvage these crops for use in animal feed.
Flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ivan in September inundated many fields of corn, soybeans, other grains and vegetables, especially in the Susquehanna, Delaware and Allegheny River watersheds.
Harmful toxins. Floodwaters can contain sewage, heavy metals and other contaminants, and waterlogged crops can develop molds that produce harmful toxins.
“The FDA has concluded that these crops can’t be used for human food,” said Greg Roth, Penn State agronomist.
“Flood-affected crops should be segregated so they don’t contaminate unaffected crops during harvesting, storage and distribution, and they should not be marketed in a way that could lead to them being mixed with grains intended for human consumption.”
However, Roth said affected crops can be used for animal feed if proper handling and processing guidelines are followed.
“To even be considered for use in animal feed, these crops should be cleaned and dried or heat-treated.”
Treatment, testing. Roth said the grain also needs to be tested for mycotoxins; heavy metals, such as cadmium, mercury and lead; pathogenic bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella; pesticides; and polychlorinated biphenyls.
Additional testing may be necessary if the crops were grown in proximity to other potential environmental or industrial contaminants.
Testing can be performed by private laboratories or by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services on request (growers should contact Michael Hydock at 717-787-4315, ext. 207).
Preliminary results from a Penn State Cooperative Extension survey of flooded corn analyzed by the department showed generally low levels of several mycotoxins.
The samples, which had not been cleaned, dried or further processed except to be shelled, were negative for heavy metals, human pathogens and pesticides, but were not tested for polychlorinated biphenyls.
“These preliminary results suggest that many growers may be able to salvage some value from their flood-affected crops,” Roth said.
Getting help. Once growers receive test results – usually in seven to 10 days – they can consult their county Penn State Cooperative Extension agronomy educator to discuss proper use or disposition of the crops.
Growers are encouraged to notify Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture of their intention to process, test and market flood-affected grain, Roth said.
A voluntary reporting form, as well as information on proper sampling and testing (including a list of private laboratories), is available at www.cas.psu.edu/docs/biosecurity/EMERGENCY/MarketFlood.html.
For more information, contact John Breitsman, chief of the department’s Division of Agronomic and Regional Services, at 717-772-5215.

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