Food Code may bring changes to farmer’s markets

With the adoption of the 2009 Food Code, some changes in produce handling may be necessary at farmer’s markets. If you sell lettuce and other leafy greens, you might want to consider changes in handling to ensure quality and legal compliance.

Changes are afoot in Michigan that may have fairly significant repercussions with regards to how direct market farmers sell greens at farmer’s markets. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) recently adopted the 2009 Food Code as the law of Michigan. This may not seem earth-shattering, but some pretty significant changes set forth in the 2009 Food Code will affect direct sale farm marketers.

The most significant change in the Food Code is to classify cut leafy greens as a potentially hazardous food. That means that under the law, cut leafy greens must be treated like eggs, raw meat and other perishable products requiring refrigeration. They must be maintained in a temperature controlled environment that is held between 32 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut greens may be maintained at room temperature for up to six hours, but then must be discarded and not consumed by humans.

Excluded from the Food Code are whole heads of lettuce for sale at farmer’s markets and most baby greens. Whole heads are considered raw agricultural commodities and need no special treatment under the law. With regards to baby greens, if the only cut was the harvest cut and various fields of baby greens were not mixed prior to sale, then they are exempt. If the greens are cut or mixed, they need to be refrigerated. You may still wish to wash these vegetables in sanitized water prior to selling to remove field heat and increase shelf-life.

If you have specific questions about the Michigan Food Code or have difficulty implementing these changes to your farm activities, contact the Michigan State University Extension Agrifood Safety Work Group at or 517-788-4292.

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