Flooding and Animal Food Safety

— Written By Sara Beth Routh and last updated by

Crops harvested from flooded land should be tested for contaminants, but unfortunately will typically be found unacceptable for feed use. The rules drafted by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine for dealing with crops where fields were flooded are not new, but we want to remind you of them now because of the vast amount of farmland under floodwaters in the Southeast.

Floodwaters from storms can contain sewage, disease-causing organisms, pesticides, chemical wastes, or other toxic substances. Mold growth is another serious problem. If animals consume feed that has mold on it, sometimes toxins from that mold can also get into food derived from the animals and cause illness in people.

At a minimum, the crops harvested from flooded fields should be tested for these contaminants:

  • Mycotoxins, including aflatoxin, fumonisin, vomitoxin, zearalenone, and ochratoxin.
    • For more information about acceptable aflatoxin levels, see aflatoxin guidance.
    • For more information about fumonisin levels, see fumonisin guidance
    • For more information about another mycotoxins, deoxynivalenol (DON), see deoxynivalenol guidance
    • (For guidance about vomitoxin, zearalenone, and ochratoxin, contact FDA AskCVM@fda.hhs.gov or 240-402-7002.)
  • Heavy metals, specifically cadmium, mercury, and lead.
  • Certain disease-causing bacteria, especially Salmonella, E.coli O157:H7, Clostridium perfringens, and botulinum.
  • Chemicals, such as pesticides, with particular emphasis on organophosphate and chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides.

FDA can consider diversions of crops from human food uses to animal feed uses, and in most cases the diversion involves a different standard for filth in animal food, compared with human food. The requests should be submitted in writing to the public affairs specialist in your area FDA Public Affairs Officers, and the request should include this information:

  • Name and address of requestor
  • Precise physical location of the product
  • The precise identity of the products
  • Why the products are considered adulterated
  • Level of adulterant, and all analytical data regarding levels of adulterant, and the methods used to determine the levels
  • The cause of the adulteration
  • The name and address of consignee
  • The reconditioning or denaturing procedure, if any
  • Proposed labeling
  • Special restrictions
  • The intended use of the diverted food
  • All available information from the firm proposing the diversion on the safety of the adulterant for the intended animal use and any information about the use of food derived from the animals
  • Information sufficient to determine whether disposition of such an article, including packaging, will result in toxic substance release into the environment

More information is available in a Compliance Policy Guide Sec. 675.200 “Diversion of Adulterated Food to Acceptable Animal Feed Use.”

If you have any questions about these rules or other feed related topics, please contact the Center for Veterinary Medicine at AskCVM@fda.hhs.gov or 240-402-7002.