Don’t Get Sick at The Farmer’s Market

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on June 13, 2019 · 0 comments

According to the USDA, there are approximately 8,500 farmers markets in the US. While most of them sell fresh fruits and vegetables, 40% sell prepared foods, 66% meat and poultry, and 15% seafood, all of which could pose a food safety risk.

Penn State took a look at the farmers markets in Pennsylvania and some of their findings were concerning. When questioned most vendors believed that they were complying with adequate food safety precautions but in practice, this was not the case. In a Rhode Island study, 80% of vendors wore unclean clothing. In Pennsylvania, only 24% had disposable gloves at the stand and many used them incorrectly often handling money and unpackaged food without changing gloves. Handwashing and the lack of handwashing facilities were common and this was a similar problem in farmers markets in Iowa and Canada. Over 25% of the vendors displayed food on surfaces that could not be adequately cleaned or were uncovered. Few ready-to-eat foods were prepackaged putting them at risk to insects, touching by customers, or even accidental coughing or sneezing. Ready-to-eat foods should be covered, packaged or put in display cases. There was also limited use of thermometers for cold storage. Though you may have little power to correct some of there concerns short of notifying the management of the farmers market, simply knowing about these potential risks can help you steer clear of vendors who do not handle foods safely.

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