Keeping it safe at the farmers market

Farmers market

If you are like me, you look forward to perusing the local farmers market whenever you travel, whether it is around the world or even those close to home. I find myself gravitating to the these open air bazaars filled with seasonal produce, fresh bakery items, artisan cheeses, dips, and even crafts or home decorative articles. Most, like me, anticipate finding healthy and delicious foods to sample or buy, and meeting the farmer or chef who created the food for tasting.

The last thing on our minds is usually food borne illness and food safety concerns. We tend to trust the vendors and the town or management team maintaining the market. Most, I’m sure, follow safety measures, and train workers to keep clean, hygienic practices.

I share this not to discredit or taint you to farmers markets, but to make you aware and provide tips to keep you safe. Most towns include a farmers market protocol and safety sheet, so you can look that up before you go online.

Here are some tips to lower the incidence of illness from farmers market finds:

  • Check for a certificate or official notice of food safety training and inspection.
  • Make sure any servers or food handlers are wearing gloves, using clean tongs or serving utensils on a clean surface; hair is tied back; and apron is clean.
  • Surfaces should be cleaned frequently.
  • Make sure everything is pasteurized — juices, cider, cheeses, milk, etc.
  • Avoid anything raw, which can contain harmful microorganisms.
  • Processed foods (i.e., sauces, dressings, fruit butters, pickles, salsa, soups, and dips, etc.) have high risk for botulism.
  • Cold foods should be cold straight from a fridge.
  • Hot foods should be hot (piping hot with steam).
  • Open foods should be covered to protect against insects, animals or hands.
  • Wash purchased produce thoroughly at home before eating.
  • Bring a cooler if you are not planning to get it home in the refrigerator within the hour.
  • Foods should not be out at room temperature or in the “danger zone” (40-140 degrees) for more than two hours.
  • Knowledge is power! So, now that we know some of the concerns at a farmers market, let's be mindful and aware so we can continue enjoying our delectable finds.

If you would like to meet with a dietitian, book an appointment with us by contacting Joe Juliano, RD, Nutrition and Wellness Manager, The Valley Hospital, at 201-447-8093 or jjulian@valleyhealth.com. 

Janet Brancato, MS, RDN

About the Author

Janet Brancato, MS, RDN