Industry organisation says floodwaters pose contamination risk

New Zealand consumers can expect vegetable shortages over coming weeks, according to member-based industry organisation United Fresh New Zealand.

NZ onions

The warning comes as floodwaters rise across the upper North Island following heavy rainfall late last week.

United Fresh’s food safety representative, Anne-Marie Arts, said excess rainfall would affect the quality and shelf life of many crops.

“Flooding exposes fresh produce to microbial risk,” Arts explained. “If floodwaters come in contact with the edible part of the crop, it is considered to be contaminated and will not be harvested.

“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.”

Arts said that crops suitable to pick would now be quarantined until they are declared safe to eat by microbial testing.

The severe weather event comes after a summer of rainy conditions, which have impacted the supply and price of fresh vegetables nationwide.

“Growers follow strict protocols to ensure the kai they provide is safe to eat,” said Arts. “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.”