Via Steve Reiners and Marvin Pritts:
“Record-breaking rains in eastern New York State have left many vegetable and berry growers in dire straits. What had been shaping up to be a decent season has quickly turned into a nightmare with crops under water in many locations. Growers have been asking many questions as to what they can do in the short and long term.”
One critical concern: Do not use fruits and vegetables that were at or near harvest at the time of flooding if the source of flooding was streams or surface water:
There are two types of flooding. The first is more typical and occurs after a heavy downpour when fields become saturated and water pools on the soil surface. This type of flooding can reduce yields and even kill plants but usually will not result in contamination of produce with human pathogens.
The second type of flooding is more severe and unfortunately occurred with the recent storm. This occurs due to runoff from stream/river overflows will more likely be contaminated with human pathogens, as well as chemicals.
Unless you are absolutely sure that flooding is not from streams and surface water, do not use fruits and vegetables that were at or near harvest at the time of flooding.
Update from Steve Reiners (9/28/2011):
This factsheet from the University of Vermont contains great information for growers that are dealing with produce from flooded fields. I think it has answers to a lot of the questions we are getting in eastern New York: Frequently Asked Questions About Handling Flooded Produce.