I have banana plants in my back yard, one of which has produced a nice heart. The bananas should be ripe in a month or so. My house and yard were flooded by Harvey. The category 3 floodwater that inundated my house and yard included stuff from multiple sewage plants upstream that were overtopped and possibly from two EPA superfund sites.

Will my bananas be safe to eat? If not, will next year's bananas be safe to eat, or should I just cut them all down?

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    David, I'm very sorry for what you went through. I'm glad you're safe. I found a number of scientific studies that I don't have time to extrapolate and write an answer. The FDA has some that are important, especially this and this. You probably shouldn't eat this year's crop, but that doesn't mean you have to get rid of the plants. Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 22:04
  • I'm not sure this question is on-topic, as it might fall into the plant biology exception. Either way, a few important questions can be helpful, according to my research. Did the contaminated water reach the level of the fruiting part of the plant? Did the contaminated water fall on the growing plants? How long did the plants sit in it? Has your soil returned to normal? You've already accepted an answer, but I don't know if that means you're going to eat the fruit or not. I just hope you give further consideration! Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 19:34

2 Answers 2


Pathogenic e-coli are known to be able to reach the tissue of some vegetable plants which is why it's not recommended to use raw manure as a fertiliser, but I'm not aware that anyone has ever detected pathogenic bacteria getting into the roots of trees and making their way into fruit. They might get blown onto the skin so one might wash the fruits after picking them.


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    Perhaps something like banana bread would be a suitable/"safer" use for them? Being forced to eat large quantities of banana bread is no bad thing, after all :)
    – Rob
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 18:54
  • Apart from all the sugar and butter used in making the cake Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 18:59
  • I class that as a small price to pay, though having childhood nostalgia thanks to my nan making banana bread probably plays a small part in that :)
    – Rob
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 23:01
  • Graham, if you read deeper into that resource link, you'll find that pathogenic bacteria from exposure to sewer water absolutely do affect the entire vegetable plant, including the produce grown on those plants. Also, that article is based on growing plants in or near leaking sewage or sewer systems, not plants that have been sitting in or pummeled by the level of contaminants that happened during Harvey. Getting sick is not guaranteed, but this isn't an issue to be taken lightly. Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 19:14
  • @Sue we need more than conjecture. There is absolutely no evidence that bacteriae can make their way into the fruit of a tree. Banana and plantain (Musa spp.) are both mycorrhizal plants, and mycorrhizae provide the trees with anti-bacterial defences ( that's where we get many of our antibiotics). If you can find evidence of bacterial penetration into a healthy fruiting banana tree, then please quote. Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 22:26

I would not be concerned about the bacteria absorbed by the plant but rather any solvents, petroleum or heavy metal contamination that might have occurred in the water and then absorbed into the plant. Since it's not a huge crop of bananas, I would not be so concerned and if the plant and fruit did absorb some quantity of bad stuff, it won't kill you or make you sick from a one time use (at least short term). I would not eat crops irrigated regularly with contaminated water. Wash the fruit off well and enjoy.

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