Shopping at Farmers' Markets is a great way to meet and support local farmers, buy healthy produce and other tasty foods, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere! It is also a great place to take the kids for a fun outing.
However, the place where you are buying your food does not necessarily determine if the product will be safe or not safe. The most important factor is the practices that are used all the way from raising the food until the time that you eat it. Customers shopping at farmers markets, as well as any venue, should be sure to look for a few important clues to help give some idea of the product’s safety. Here are some clues to look for at the market:
· Should be clean, look fresh, no cuts or nicks
· Displayed off the ground/floor
Cut or peeled produce
· Displayed on/surrounded by ice
· Look fresh and cold
Meats, eggs, cheeses
· Package must feel cold; product in cooler/on ice
· Egg cartons and eggs should be clean, not cracked
· Must be pasteurized (Missouri regulation), ask vendor to confirm
· Pasteurized is safest
Hot prepared foods
· Would like to see vendor using thermometer
· Should have a lid, see steam rising from pan
· See vendors washing their hands
· See a handwashing station in booth (particularly with prepared foods)
Booth, personal cleanliness
· Surfaces of booth, knives, other utensils clean
· Clean clothes, hands, no wiping nose, etc.
· Look for any posted food safety certifications/trainings attended
· Ask vendors about their food safety practices
It is also important when buying foods at a farmers market or anywhere to be sure to handle it safely on the way home and once at home.
More information on this and other food safety topics is available from the University of Missouri Extension and the FDA.
(by Londa Londa Nwadike, PhD, Extension Food Safety Specialist, University of Missouri Extension)