Food safety at farmer’s markets

While farm markets are exciting, remember to keep food safety in mind.

Michigan State University Extension educates consumers on safe food handling from the grocery stores to preparing food at home, to the proper storage of leftovers. MSU Extension now includes education on food safety at farmer’s markets.

In the last 10 years Michigan markets have grown from about 900 in 2001 to more than 2,800 in 2012. Farmer’s markets are a great way to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables, as well as helping to support local agriculture. There are some food safety tips to follow when purchasing foods from farmer’s markets.

Many markets have their own food safety rules when it comes to food sampling and vendors must comply, as well as to government regulations. There are basic guidelines that should be followed to ensure fresh foods are safe.

Produce: Before and after preparing fresh produce, wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking. It is not recommended to use soap or detergent when washing produce. Even if you peel produce before eating, it is still recommended to wash it first. Bacteria on the outside can be transferred to the inside when it is cut. Refrigerate cut or peeled fruits and vegetables within two hours of preparing.

Juices/cider: Purchase only pasteurized juice or cider. Pasteurization ensures all harmful bacteria have been killed. Pregnant women, children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems should only drink pasteurized products.

Milk/cheeses: It is not recommended to buy milk at farmer’s markets unless it has been pasteurized. Raw milk may have dangerous microorganisms such as Salmonella, E.Coli, and Listeria. Pregnant women, children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems should only drink pasteurized milk and milk products. Another source for these bacteria is soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. Check the label to see if it has been made from pasteurized milk.

Eggs: Before purchasing fresh eggs at the farmer’s market, make sure they are properly chilled. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires untreated shelled eggs to be stored and displayed at 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Before buying any eggs from a market or store, check that eggs are clean and shells are not cracked.

Meat: Before purchasing make sure meat packages have the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stamp and are properly chilled in closed coolers with ice.

If you plan to be away from home for more than one hour after shopping at the market, bring a cooler with ice to keep perishable foods safe until refrigeration can be done. If it is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, one hour may even be too long for food to be left out. Following these simple food safety guidelines will ensure your market purchases will remain safe.

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