United Fresh New Zealand advises consumers to be prepared for fresh vegetable shortages in the coming weeks as floodwaters throughout the upper North Island impact food safety.
United Fresh Food Safety Representative, Anne-Marie Arts, says excess rainfall will affect the quality and shelf life of many crops.
“Flooding exposes fresh produce to microbial risk. If floodwaters come in contact with the edible part of the crop, it is considered to be contaminated and will not be harvested,” she says.
“After the flooding subsides, growers will not harvest the affected crops and will have special protocols for disposing the affected plant matter. Replanting the land will not occur for some time until it is dry and considered suitable. These delays might result in supply gaps of some varieties,” says Arts.
Crops that might be suitable to pick will now be quarantined until they are declared safe to eat by microbial testing.
Arts notes that those with home gardens must take the same precautions.
“Whether it’s a commercial farm or a home vegetable garden, floodwaters present a real risk to the health of your whānau,” says Arts.
“Floodwaters can flush through sewer systems and across rural land collecting human and animal waste. The waters may contain pathogens that can make you seriously ill,” she says.
“We’re advising anyone with a home garden that may have had floodwater enter to throw away affected plants immediately,” she says.
The severe weather event comes on top of a summer of rainy conditions which have already impacted the supply and price of fresh vegetables nationwide.
“Growers follow strict protocols to ensure the kai they provide is safe to eat. While this flood has worsened our supply situation, the whole industry will be working hard to get enough fresh vegetables to market in the coming months,” says Arts.
Further information about food safety in an emergency can be found here:
For Markets, Retailers and Consumers: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/funding-rural-support/adverse-events/food-safety-in-natural-disasters-and-emergencies
Information about road closures can be found here: https://www.journeys.nzta.govt.nz/traffic/?layers=road-closures