The salmonella outbreak that has sickened hundreds of people in the U-S has some asking about the safety of vegetables in Iowa gardens that were hit by floodwaters.
Iowa State University extension food safety specialist Sam Beattie says any vegetables that were in the floodwater, or that grow underground, could be contaminated with bacteria.,"What you can do is, you can harvest it, peel it, and then cook it and you will kill almost any bacteria that are associated with the product. And you can immediately consume it and it will be good to go," Beattie says.
He says onions and carrots are easy to fix by cooking them if they have been contaminated by bacteria. Beattie says, depending on where you live, bacteria from floodwater is not the only concern. Beattie says the bigger problem is contamination from chemicals.
Beattie says you can almost be guaranteed that the water is contaminated with bacteria, but he says the chemical contamination is harder to judge. In Cedar Rapids, the E-P-A determined almost all of the floodwaters had enough bacteria in them to make you sick, but they hadn’t done the assessment for the chemicals yet.
Beattie says you should not eat the vegetables you think may’ve been contaminated with chemicals. Beattie says vegetables that developed on plants after the floodwaters receded, will not be contaminated by bacteria, and should be safe to eat.
Beattie says vegetables should not be set on the ground in areas that had been covered by floodwaters as that ground might still be contaminated for 90 to 120 days after the flooding. Beattie says keep any new produce off the ground, for example, he says a late crop of strawberries might be "a little risky." For more information, visit the Iowa State University Extension website .