What signs indicate a sanitary farmers’ market?

Farmers’ markets are regulated by  state and local authorities. There  a great many limitations and restrictions concerning what and how foods can be sold. Permits and licenses are often required.   Nevertheless, consumers should be alert to conditions that may indicate too little effort to protect visitors from contamination.


Look around.  You should be able to answer “yes” to all these questions:


1. Are garbage cans covered?


2. Is there at least one facility for  vendors to wash their hands with warm water, soap, and disposable paper towels?


3. Does the food seem to be adequately protected from insects and the elements? For example, are there overhead awnings and  is all food kept off the ground? 


4. Are vendors who are preparing ready-to-eat food wearing gloves or using tongs?


5. Are food samples served with single-serve, disposable utensils such as paper plates, plastic silverware, and toothpicks?


6. Do utensils, cutting boards, etc. look  clean?


7. Are perishable foods at the temperature they should be—either hot or cold?


8. Are processed foods wrapped and labeled with the product and the preparer’s name?


Food can become contaminated in ways the farmers’ market shopper cannot see. Food safety hazards can be divided into three categories: biological, physical, and chemical.  Biological pathogens are microorganisms that can cause food-borne illness.  These can come from manures, unclean  irrigation water, and livestock getting into the production area.   Physical hazards include foreign material that can get into food—metal, glass, insects, hair, and dirt all fall into this category.  The third classification includes chemicals that might have been used by farmers in the growing  and cleaning of produce—such as insecticides, fungicides, and fertilizers.  Chemical hazards can also come from contaminated soil or tainted water.  Any of these forms of contamination can taint food at a farmers’ market, but the same is true of  grocery store products.   




Purdue University Extension  “Food Safety Regulations for Farmers’ Markets”

K-State Kansas State University “Food Safety for Farmers’ Markets” by Karen Gast


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