Minimizing foodborne illness risk to patrons at petting zoos

When your customers move from a petting zoo to a farmstand on the same location, they can contaminate your otherwise safe produce with manure. Here are simple steps to help prevent this from happening without getting rid of the petting zoo.

As much as petting zoos are popular at farmstands throughout Michigan, they can pose significant food safety risks when placed near fresh produce or ready-to-eat food for sale. Here are a few things to consider if you have both a petting zoo and produce or food for sale at your farm.

Girl petting a goatMaximize distance and minimize entry points

If you can, design the facility to provide only one entry and exit point from the petting zoo. In doing this, you can concentrate people and pass them by one or multiple handwashing stations. In addition, keep the distance between the animals and the food for sale as far as possible. Making it easy for patrons to get from the animals to the food also makes it easy for manure to get from the animals to the food.

Mind the manure

Keeping pens clean is imperative. The more manure in the pen, the more likely it could get on the animals, transfer to a child’s hand and end up in food somewhere in the establishment. Dispose of manure in a place far away from food or where patrons could get into it. Keep it far enough away that possible cross-contamination from flies to food is minimized as well.

Encourage handwashing

Keep handwash stations convenient and well stocked. Signal to all patrons that they should wash their hands by posting signs and even announcing it to patrons. Post signs that demonstrate good handwashing.

To get more information about the food safety implications of mixing animals and food, contact the Agrifood Safety workgroup at To obtain a sign that demonstrates good handwashing, send a request to the GAPs e-mail and ask for guidance document AFSM010-02.

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