30 Sep Food Safety at the Farmer’s Market
Thanks to organizations like GrowNYC on the East coast, Urban Village on the West coast, and many other community-wide efforts, farmers markets are becoming accessible to both rural and urban communities across America.
While it’s great to support your local farms and purchase fresh, seasonal produce, there are also certain precautions that you should take when visiting your local market to help ensure the food you bring home is safe to eat.
In honor of September being National Food Safety Month, below is an overview of a few simple food safety steps when shopping for, preparing, and consuming food from the Farmer’s Market.
1. Shopping and preparing produce: Choose fresh produce that has not been bruised or damaged. At home, wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly with water before preparing or eating – even those with hard skins since bacteria can also live on these peels.
2. Unpasteurized foods: Check that all milk products, cheeses, and ciders have been pasteurized (a heat treatment to destroy harmful microorganisms). Women who are pregnant or nursing, children, and elderly folks should particularly avoid unpasteurized foods due to their weaker immune systems.
3. Meat, poultry, and eggs: These foods should all be properly chilled when you purchase them at the market. Check for cracked or broken eggs in the carton. Wrap all raw meats, poultry, and fish in separate plastic bags before placing them in re-usable bags. Keeping these foods separate from fresh produce will help to prevent cross-contamination!
4. Free Samples: Although those free samples at the market can be enticing, they’re also a magnet for poor food safety. It’s difficult to control shoppers who use their fingers or those who “double dip”, making the risk for cross-contamination high. If you choose to sample, always use the tooth pick or serving utensil to take your sample.
5. Hot foods and meals: Some markets also offer hot, prepared foods and snacks for shoppers. If so, the food should be held at a hot temperature (140°F or warmer), and checked often by the vendor using a thermometer. Any food left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours should be discarded. When the weather is warmer (over 90°F), this limit is just 1 hour, unless the food is held at a controlled temperature over ice or a heating unit.
Additional Food Safety Resources
- USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Services Basics for Handling Food Safely
- Foodsafety.gov (an information gateway maintained by a collection of government agencies) Basic Food Safety at the Farmer’s Market
- Home Food Safety (a joint-campaign from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ConAgra foods) How to Safely Navigate the Farmer’s Market