Food Safety Concerns from Flooded Gardens

Be sure to think about food safety of garden produce after recent flooding. According to UW-Extension food safety expert Barb Ingham, the safest thing to do is discard all produce from fields where there was risk of flooding or standing water. But many people will want to salvage at least some of their garden’s bounty.

According to Ingham:

  • No leafy greens like lettuces should be eaten from any flooded field.
  • If you are harvesting underground crops (beets, carrots, potatoes) in the next 3-4 weeks from fields where heavy rain occurred, rinse them in a dilute bleach solution (1 TB bleach per gallon of water) and peel before cooking. After 3-4 weeks, you can omit the bleach solution.
  • Above ground fruits (such as tomatoes) have some level of risk, because they can be splashed with rain or flood water. If you wish to use them, rinse them with clean water, rinse in a bleach solution (1 TB bleach per gallon of water), peel and cook them. Do not eat them raw, even if the fruits were above water level. Two weeks after flooding (assuming there is sunny warm weather), you may eat tomatoes or other fruits and vegetables that were above flood waters raw.
  • Produce that is not fit for eating should NOT be preserved by canning, freezing or drying.

A factsheet is available here:

For more information or specific questions, contact Deb Neubauer, Family Living Educator at Dane County UW-Extension at 608-224-3722 or