Farmer’s markets are a huge perk of the spring and summer seasons where local vendors come to sell their freshly grown fruits and vegetables as well as locally produced eggs, fish, and meat. Farmer’s markets offer a fun and exciting alternative to going to the supermarket, however, there are things to be mindful of when deciding which vendors to purchase from.
Selling their products outside may offer unique circumstances and challenges that vendors must adapt to. There are elements of food safety to keep an eye out for when perusing through the market. These include:
· Check for the overall cleanliness of the stand, the facility, and the vehicles transporting the food.
· Loo out for garbage disposal: Trash is in a bin away from the food.
· Employees? Vendors should be wearing/changing gloves when necessary.
· If a vendor is serving ready-to-eat items, make sure they are either served hot (over 140°F) or kept cold (under 40°F).
· If a vendor is giving away free samples, be certain they are being held properly and are placed on sanitary surfaces with clean utensils. Perishable items should not be left out for too long.
If there is ever any uncertainty surrounding a vendor’s practices, have a chat with the vendors themselves and find out about their farming and cultivation practices.
Even if the vendor seems to good food manufacturing and handling practices, some of their products may not be perfect. Here are some features of farmer’s markets’ products to be mindful of:
· Mold or bruises: Do not purchase produce with bruises present as an easy opportunity for bacteria to enter and spread to the inside.
· Egg shells: They should not be cracked!
· Little critters! Look for any evidence of insects.
· Dirt: Wash the produce under running water upon returning home (even if the product is going to be peeled).
Foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella and E. Coli are often associated with animal products but can equally affect fruits and vegetables. Following these guidelines will reduce the risk of falling ill to one of these illnesses and will allow for local produce to be properly enjoyed.