With so many farmer’s markets all across the country giving consumers access to locally-grown fresh fruit, vegetables, and other grocery products, it is important to make sure you know a few things, to make sure that the food you purchase is safe.
When purchasing produce at a farmer’s market, make sure that the produce you purchase is not bruised or damaged. If you buy any pre-cut produce, whether it is cut up fruit or cut up vegetables, make sure you only pick the pre-cut produce that is either refrigerated, or has ice surrounding it. To avoid cross-contamination, when bagging produce that you buy, make sure that it doesn’t share a bag with meat, poultry, or seafood. Make sure you wash your hands for a good 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after handling fresh produce at home. All produce should be washed thoroughly under running water right before you cut, eat, or cook the produce. Even produce that will be peeled, needs to be washed before peeling, otherwise the bacteria that is on the outside of the produce can spread to the inside. All cut or peeled produce should be refrigerated within 2 hours after cutting or peeling.
With regards to purchasing milk at a farmer’s market, unless you can confirm that the milk has been pasteurized or somehow treated to destroy microorganisms, DO NOT buy it. Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, are just a few of the dangerous bacteria that can be found in raw milk and they can pose serious risks to your health. When buying cheese, it’s just as important to make sure that the cheese has also been made from milk that has been pasteurized, especially if buying soft cheeses like brie, feta, blue cheese, camembert, etc., which are prone to these bacteria.
When buying eggs, make sure the eggs are being stored and displayed at the FDA recommended 45 °F. Also before purchasing, make sure to check that all of the eggs are clean and not cracked.
If you buy meat and/or poultry at the farmer’s market, make sure that the meat/poultry is stored in coolers with enough ice to keep it cold. It’s always a good idea to bring an insulated bag to keep your meat and poultry cold until you can get it home. Also, remember to keep meat and poultry separate from other foods you buy, so that the juices from the meat don’t leak and contaminate your produce or other foods you may have bought.
Make sure that if you buy any canned vegetables or vegetable sauces, that you only buy if the canner is registered with the FDA. Because some vegetables have low acid content, they must be properly canned to prevent the bacteria that causes botulism to grow inside the cans and jars. The FDA actually requires all canners of low acid food, regardless of how small their business is, to register and submit information about their canning process. Botulism is rare, but the bacteria in soil can survive and produce toxin when sealed in a jar or can, that can affect your nerves, paralyze you, or even cause death. That's why before you buy a can or a jar of any sort of vegetable at a farmer’s market, find out if the canner is registered with the FDA.
It’s a great thing to support your local farmers and businesses. With farmer’s markets on the rise, and more farm-to-table restaurants, keep the above recommendations in mind, and enjoy all the delicious food from your local farmer’s markets, while keeping you and your family healthy and safe.
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