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Food Safety Can Be an Issue at Farmers' Markets—Here Are 5 Ways to Stay Safe

Food Safety Can Be an Issue at Farmers' Markets—Here Are 5 Ways to Stay Safe

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A new study reveals that foodborne illness can be an issue outside of the supermarket, as well.

People love to shop at farmers markets—in-season produce is fresh and sourced locally, and you can often find foods that are tastier or harder to get at a local supermarket or grocery store chain.

But the halo enjoyed by farmers' markets means that it's easy to forget about the issue of food safety. Just because you're shopping outside of a traditional grocery store doesn't mean that all food is immediately safe for consumption.

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New research suggests that bacteria capable of causing widespread illness can be found on many foods at these markets. A team of researchers at Pennsylvania State University studied the behaviors of local vendors at more than 40 Pennsylvania farmers' markets, finding that many failed to follow basic sanitary procedures when it came to preparing items for sale. Their findings were published in the November issue of Food Protection Trends, according to Penn State's official release.

There's a good chance that the farmers selling items at your local market say they're taking proper safety precautions when handling their merchandise—but this new bit of research finds discrepancies between what farmers should be doing and what they're actually doing when selling meat or produce.

One glaring example is the use of protective gloves when handling anything raw—fewer than a quarter of farmers actually used them at their stands, and the study found that half of those who did use gloves used them improperly (read: not changing their gloves after handling raw meat or money).

"The vendors believe they are doing a good job, when in reality they are not. We are not sure why there were such discrepancies," says Catherine Cutter, a professor of food science at Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and the lead author behind the study.

More on how you can keep your kitchen safe from foodborne illness:

Poor hygiene, alongside improper handling and contamination at farm sites, may be the reason why researchers found multiple sources of foodborne bacteria in food samples at these farmer's markets. According to the study, E. coli was present in 40 percent of beef samples, 18 percent of pork samples, in over 33 percent of kale and lettuce samples and in 17 percent of spinach samples.

Listeria, another potentially deadly source of contamination, was also routinely found in random samples—in 7 percent of spinach, 4 percent of lettuce, and in 8 percent of beef.

More often than not, choosing to thoroughly cook your purchases from the farmer's market will eliminate most risks—but when it comes to produce and other raw items, shoppers should go about their thorough preparation, cleanings, and other safety precautions just like they do with any other grocery item.

Using the research presented, there are a few simple ways you can avoid foodborne illness when shopping at the farmer's market. Keep these five tips in mind the next time you find fresh produce and other groceries at your local market.

1) Ask Your Vendors About Their Safety Procedures

The simplest way to tell if produce and other perishable items are okay for consumption is confronting the issue head on. It doesn't hurt to ask your local vendor what they're doing to make sure items are safe to consumption—what kind of procedures do they practice at their farms and in transportation? If they sell particularly risky items, like raw poultry or beef, how do they handle the product while at the market? This is also true for ready-to-eat foods, ranging from baked bread to desserts or even heat-and-serve items, because you don't know which temperatures they used in production to properly kill off harmful bacteria.

When in doubt, ask! You can learn a lot from speaking openly about the topic… which also gives you a chance to see firsthand if vendors use proper sanitary tools like gloves.

2) Don't Purchase Raw Dairy

Sales of Raw milk have been banned in 20 states—but many states still allow it to be sold directly by a producer—which is to say a farmer. Still, you may want to indulge in this trend at your own risk. The Food and Drug Administration has identified raw milk as the most dangerous raw-food product available to shoppers, and many people have fallen seriously ill after drinking it. Regardless of the precautions taken by vendors, including bacteria tests, there's a chance you'll fall ill after consuming raw dairy—this can also be true for unpasteurized juice and cider.

3) Save Perishable Items For Last

Buy anything that needs to be refrigerated—beef, poultry, eggs, and dairy especially—at the end of your visit so that you can reduce the risk of spoiling on the way home. In the summer and warmer months, it can take only 30 minutes for a car's interior to reach a whopping 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and your fresh purchases will spoil at high temperatures like this. Bring a cooler or insulated shopping bag and drive home immediately afterwards.

4) Wash Your Produce and Perishables Thoroughly

Washing your raw fruits and vegetables before consuming them is essential for safety—and you should wash before loading your purchases into your kitchen, given that bacteria can transfer from surface to surface (including cutting boards and plates).

If you're not going to cook or eat produce right away, dry them after you rinse—moisture can encourage bacteria to grow at home.

5) Use a Thermometer

The bottom line: This research isn't suggesting that you stop shopping at the farmer's market. Not all vendors are the same, and many vendors are practicing safe handling techniques—but it's just a good reminder to use best judgement and proper food safety procedures with all foods, regardless of where it was sourced.

5 Food Safety Rules In The Kitchen

Cooking and food preparation doesn't have to be complicated, but you need to make sure you're following these 5 food safety rules in the kitchen as you do it.

That's because keeping your family both well fed and safe are some of the most important things you do each day.

Rule 1: Wash hands between steps.

Washing your hands before cooking is almost a no brainer, but many forget to also wash between steps. This is especially true that you should wash your hands after handling raw meat.

You also should wash your hands after touching any other surfaces. Little things like running out to the garage to grab something out of the deep freeze expose your hands to germs on light switches, doorknobs and handles. Before handling any food again you need to once again wash your hands.

Here's my tips for how to properly wash your hands so you make sure you're doing it for a long enough period (hint, it might just be longer than you think!)

Rule 2: Sanitize work surfaces.

When preparing meals make sure that your counters, cutting boards and all work surfaces have been sufficiently sanitized first.

You can use this homemade bleach solution to sanitize your counter tops before you begin your preparation of meats, vegetables and fruits that will be used in your meal preparation.

In addition, here are instructions for how to sanitize your cutting board.

Rule 3: Use separate cutting boards for raw meats, vegetables and produce, and cooked foods.

It may seem like a hassle to have multiple cutting boards in your kitchen, but this is one of the food safety rules in the kitchen I always stand behind. Designate one board for raw meats, one for fruits and vegetables and one to cut cooked or prepared food on. This keeps cross contamination to a minimum, and will result in safe and healthy food preparation in your kitchen.

Rule 4: Cook foods to safe temperatures.

Check out the recommended temperature for food safety and make sure that you are cooking foods to safe temperatures. This varies between different cuts and types of meat, but here's a great resource from my friend Marybeth where she's listed the types of meat and what temperature they should be cooked to (and it includes an infographic!).

And while you may think you can tell, just by sight, when something is cooked enough I strongly urge you to use a meat thermometer to actually check the internal temperature.

Marybeth also wrote an interesting article showing a comparison of the internal temperature of chicken as shown by a meat thermometer versus what it visually looked like when you cut into it (click the link for the article). While really raw chicken was pretty obvious visually, I would have been tricked into thinking some of the pieces of chicken were done if I only used my eyes to test doneness.

Finally, Marybeth has also written this article explaining exactly how to use a meat thermometer, so you make sure you're doing it properly.

Rule 5: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

For those times when you will be hosting a dinner party, buffet or otherwise leaving food out to be served over the course of a few hours it is important to keep food at correct temperatures. Hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees or higher and cold foods at 40 degrees or lower.

Utilizing a crockpot or other warming tray is a great way to keep food hot. Bowls with ice are also great method of keeping those cold items cold. Just make sure you check routinely to make sure you aren't allowing foods to go below or above temperature.

These food safety rules in the kitchen are simple steps to keep you and your family safe from the frustration of a food borne illness. Keeping things clean and at the proper temperature will keep you and you family enjoying delicious meals without any fear.

This article is sponsored by the Indiana's Family of Farmers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

8 food safety tips for shopping at farmers markets

It’s the time of year when roadside stands and farmers markets offer fresh picked produce. However, as with any food purchase, a little know-how can go a long way in keeping you and your family safe from foodborne illness, advises Sharon McDonald, food safety educator with Penn State Extension.

McDonald suggests following these tips, which were developed based on a Penn State study of farmers markets across the state.

1 Look around
Before buying anything, take a quick loop around the grounds. Look for overall cleanliness of vendor stands, uncovered food samples, hovering insects and soiled display areas.

2 Examine produce
Do not buy bruised or damaged produce because it is prone to bacterial contamination. The exception is “misshapen” produce, which is not damaged but is unusually shaped.

3 Ask questions
Speak with the vendor/farmer about how the food was grown check for license and registrations. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and if you’re not comfortable with the answers, politely move on to the next vendor,” said McDonald.

4 Raw meat
If you plan to buy raw meats or other perishable items, make sure you have a cooler loaded with ice. Separate raw meats from other foods to avoid cross-contamination.

5 Ready-made foods
Pay attention to ready-to-eat foods such as sandwiches, cut fruits and samples. Cold foods should be cold, and hot foods should be hot. Make sure food handlers have a barrier between their hands and the food during handling.

6 Unpasteurized milk
While many markets offer unpasteurized dairy products — such as raw milk and cheeses — and unpasteurized juices, McDonald advises against consuming these products.

7 Store food
After bringing your purchases home, store foods either in the refrigerator or on the counter, depending on the item. Some fruits and vegetables, such as nectarines, peaches and tomatoes, can be stored on the counter until ripe and then refrigerated. Refrigerate eggs, dairy products and meats, posthaste.

8 Before you eat
Make sure to wash produce right before using it, and cook foods to the proper internal temperature, especially meats. Egg dishes and ground meats must be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit poultry and fowl to 165 F and steaks, chops and roasts to 145 F.

For more information for consumers on proper food handling and storage and safe cooking temperatures is available at and-processing.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

Can You Pass This Food Safety Quiz?

Lots of people call our office because they don't know the answers to the 8 questions on this food safety quiz. Do you?

Question 1: How long will food stored constantly at 0º F remain safe?

Question 2: What temperature is recommended for your refrigerator?

Question 3: Since only the inside of melons (such as watermelon) is eaten, does their outer rind need to be washed?

Question 4: If a food tastes OK, is it safe to eat?

Question 5: Should you wash raw meat and poultry before preparing it?

Question 6: How long should you store leftovers in the refrigerator?

Question 7: If you’ve never gotten sick from food that you prepare — even though you don’t follow “food safety guidelines” — could it make someone else sick?

Question 8: For best quality, how soon after purchase does the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommending using eggs?

1. c. Indefinitely. Food will be safe indefinitely at 0º F though the quality will decrease the longer it is in the freezer.

2. c. 40º F. Keep your refrigerator at 40º F or below. Buy an inexpensive appliance thermometer for both your fridge and your freezer check them often.

3. a. Yes. Bacteria present in soil can contaminate the outside of melons. When melons are cut, these bacteria are transferred to the part we eat.

4. c. Maybe. However, don’t count on your taste, smell, or sight to tell you if a food is safe to eat. Even if tasting could tell . why risk getting sick? A “tiny taste” may not protect you. A small amount of some bacteria, such as of E. Coli, could make you sick. When in doubt, throw a food out.

5. b. No. Washing increases the danger of cross-contamination by spreading bacteria present on the surface of meat and poultry to nearby ready-to-eat foods, kitchen utensils and counter surfaces. Cooking meat and poultry to the recommended internal will make them safe to eat.

6. a. 3 to 4 days. Use leftovers within 3 to 4 days. Discard any food left at room temperature for more than 2 hours or 1 hour if the temperature is above 90º F. Place food in shallow containers and refrigerate at 40º F or lower or freeze at 0º F or lower. Frozen leftovers will taste best and be at best quality if eaten within about 3 months.

7. a. Yes. Some people have a greater risk for foodborne illnesses. A food you safely eat might make others sick. People with a higher risk for foodborne illness include infants, pregnant women, young children, older adults, people with weakened immune systems and individuals with certain chronic diseases.

8. b. 3 to 5 weeks. Store eggs in their original carton in the coldest part of the refrigerator, but not on the door when they are more susceptible to temperature changes as the door opens and closes. Though the “sell by” date will probably expire during that time, the eggs will still be safe to use.

Preserve some fresh food to enjoy later

You can stretch out your enjoyment of homegrown or locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and meats throughout the year.

Make the most of your own garden harvest, but look into other sources of fruits, vegetables, and herbs to preserve.

Visit your grocery store, farmers’ markets, local orchards, and farm stands to buy produce by the bag or box.

Wash and dry the produce and chop it up.

Put it in freezer bags or plastic containers.

If you don’t have preserving equipment and know-how, get some now!

Learn how to can, freeze, and dehydrate.

It is essential to understand food safety guidelines, avoiding botulism and other potential food poisoning by proper preservation.

The major food safety rule is to use a pressure canner for all meats and almost all vegetables.

A pressure canner is different from both a pressure cooker and a water bath canner.

When we have questions about food preservation, we rely heavily on university and scientific research info including county extension publications.

Start acquiring canning and freezing supplies and containers. Read our Home Canning Guide.

In the late summer and fall, you might find them on sale in retail stores.

Look for them year-round at thrift shops and yard sales. Just beware of cracked or chipped jars, and have any used pressure canners checked by a food safety agent.

Many local extension and ag agents can do this, often for free.

They only need to test the pressure canner lid.

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Food Safety for Food Preserving

Food preserving is the hottest trend, especially with many more folks growing their own fruits and veggies at home and preserving the extras. But with home preserving comes possible food poisoning -- something everyone should be cautious about. Here's how to can your own food, safely.

One of the biggest issues when it comes to preserving is the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism. Clostridium botulinum survives in foods preserved without oxygen, like in improperly canned or jarred foods. The bacteria love low-acid food (most veggies) and temperatures between 40 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s important not to taste jarred on canned food that shows signs of spoilage. The toxin produced from Clostridium botulinum is so toxic that even a drop on your tongue can cause death. Mold is another issue—which can also be potentially toxic. But before you swear off canning, there are simple signs to check if a product is spoiled:

  • Check for swollen lids and broken seals.
  • Examine lids for tightness and vacuum. Lids with concave centers have good seals.
  • Examine the outside of the jar for streaks of dried food originating from the top.
  • Look at the contents of the jar for rising air bubbles and unnatural color.
  • Upon opening the jar, smell for unusual odors and look for foamy liquid and cotton-like mold (could be white, black, blue or green) on the top of the food surface and underneath the lid.

The good news: a few easy steps that can prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum. Choosing an appropriate recipe from a reputable source is a good first step. Recipes (like those from canning guru Sherri Brooks Vinton) are based on type of food, size of jars and how it’s packed into jars. It’s important to follow the instructions (especially the cooking times) exactly how they’re written.

Most beginners use the boiling water method to can food. This method should be used with more acidic foods like chutneys, jams, pickles and tomatoes. The acidity makes it tough for the bacteria to survive. Adding lemon juice, citric acid or vinegar also helps increase the acidity level.

If you find a spoiled product, you want to handle it as if it contains botulism (even though it may not). If the jar is still sealed, then place it in a trash bag or dispose in a nearby landfill. If the jar is open, the contents must be detoxified by boiling all contents for 30 minutes and then disposing in the garbage or nearby landfill.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

Raw Milk Questions and Answers

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. It can come from any animal. Raw milk can carry dangerous germs, such as Brucella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella, which can pose serious health risks to you and your family.

Read the topics below to get answers to commonly asked questions about raw milk.

What are the risks associated with drinking raw milk?

Raw milk is milk from any animal that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make you very sick or kill you. While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all.

Some people who chose raw milk thinking they would improve their health instead found themselves (or their loved ones) sick in a hospital for several weeks due to infections caused by germs in raw milk. Getting sick from raw milk can mean many days of diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting. Some people who drank raw milk have developed severe or even life-threatening diseases, including Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause paralysis, and hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can result in kidney failure, stroke, and even death.

Here are some things you should know:

  • Illness can occur from the same brand and source of raw milk that people had been drinking for a long time without becoming ill.
  • A wide variety of germs that are sometimes found in raw milk can make people sick. These germs include Brucella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.
  • Each ill person&rsquos symptoms can differ depending on the type of germ, the amount of contamination, and the person&rsquos immune defenses.
Who is at greatest risk of getting sick from drinking raw milk?

The risk of getting sick from drinking contaminated raw milk is greater for infants and young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer, an organ transplant, or HIV, than it is for healthy older children and adults. But healthy people of any age can get very sick or even die if they drink raw milk contaminated with harmful germs.

Can drinking raw milk hurt me or my family?

Yes. Raw milk can cause serious illnesses. Raw milk and raw milk products, including soft cheese, ice cream, and yogurt, can be contaminated with harmful bacteria and other germs that can cause serious illness, hospitalization, or death. These harmful germs include Brucella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.

From 1993 through 2012, 127 outbreaks reported to CDC were linked to raw milk. These outbreaks included 1,909 illnesses and 144 hospitalizations. Most of the outbreaks were caused by Campylobacter, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or Salmonella. A large number of raw milk outbreaks involve children. At least one child younger than 5 was involved in 59% of the raw milk outbreaks reported to CDC from 2007 through 2012. Children aged 1 to 4 years accounted for 38% of Salmonella illnesses in these outbreaks and 28% of illnesses caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, which can cause kidney failure and death.

Reported outbreaks represent the tip of the iceberg. Most illnesses are not a part of recognized outbreak, and for every outbreak and every illness reported, many others occur.

The Scary Truth About the Human Waste that's on Your Food

Guac lovers everywhere were struck with grievous news a few weeks ago: The FDA has banned imports of cilantro from Puebla, Mexico, after learning that the crop could be contaminated with human feces. Or, as many news sites so elegantly put it, there's probably poop on your produce.

Investigators found feces and toilet paper in cilantro fields, and noted that some farms lacked toilets for their workers. And this isn't just a gross-out, oversell headline, either: Eating produce with feces on it could make you really sick. The FDA suspects (but hasn't confirmed) that this cilantro is the cause of an outbreak of a parasitic infection called cyclosporiasis, which causes a suite of symptoms that include vomiting, bloating, and (gag) "watery diarrhea." So far, 384 people from 26 states have become ill, and a formal investigation is underway.

So, as we cast our cilantro far, far away, we wondered: Could we take extra steps to avoid poop-covered produce before an outbreak occurs? Are there any kinds of produce that are extra susceptible? Or is it really just a 100%-pun-intended crapshoot? We spoke with Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, to find out.

The scary truth: Many farm workers simply don't have ready access to restrooms, and the issue isn't contained to specific crops or certain parts of the world.

"One of the problems is that the we have these trade agreements with all kinds of countries saying we recognize their food safety systems as equivalent to ours, and they're not," Hanson says. He notes that India, China, and Mexico have been some of the worst offenders, historically speaking, though the FDA has agents on the ground in these countries actively working to improve conditions. What's more, the U.S. only tests for pathogens in about 2% of the food that crosses its borders, Hanson says. This means it's all too easy for a tainted bunch of cilantro to end up in your crisper drawer.

But don't get too comfortable with your domestic produce: This type of contamination happens at home, too. "Even the U.S., which now has laws in place, has not perfected field sanitation," Hanson adds.

So, what can you do to minimize risk? Hanson suggests buying as much produce as possible from local farmers who you know and trust to keep their fields sanitary. (Buying American produce over imported is a good second choice, but it still can't guarantee waste-free food.)

Then, most importantly: Wash. Your. Produce. Hanson washes all of his produce three times with water before eating it&mdashyes, even those bagged salads that say "pre-washed" on the label. "That'll get off most of your everyday pathogens," he says. "But if someone in your household has any likelihood of an impaired immune system&mdashkids, anybody with cancer or other conditions that impair immunity, and anyone who's elderly&mdashyou should also use some mild soap on the first wash to make sure you loosen everything."

And for now, stay tuned for FDA updates on the cilantro situation. Unless, of course, you're one of the unfortunate souls genetically predisposed to think it tastes like soap. In that case, enjoy your lifetime of bland but decidedly poop-free guacamole.

Fruit and Vegetable Safety

Fruits and vegetables add nutrients to your diet that help protect you from heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. In addition, choosing vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other produce over high-calorie foods can help you manage your weight.

Sometimes, raw fruits and vegetables contain harmful germs that can make you and your family sick, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. CDC estimates that germs on fresh produce cause a large percentage of U.S. foodborne illnesses.

The safest produce is cooked the next safest is washed. Enjoy uncooked fruits and vegetables while taking steps to avoid foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning.

At the Store or Market

  • Choose produce that isn&rsquot bruised or damaged.
  • Keep pre-cut fruits and vegetables cold by choosing produce that is refrigerated or kept on ice.
  • Separate fruits and vegetables from raw meat, poultry, and seafood in your shopping cart and in your grocery bags.

At Home

    , kitchen utensils, and food preparation surfaces, including chopping boards and countertops, before and after preparing fruits and vegetables. before eating, cutting, or cooking, unless the package says the contents have been washed.
    • Wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water&mdasheven if you do not plan to eat the peel. Germs on the peel or skin can get inside fruits and vegetables when you cut them.
    • Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not recommended external icon . Do not use bleach solutions external icon or other disinfecting products on food.
    • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
    • Dry fruit or vegetables with a clean paper towel.

    Groups With a Higher Chance of Food Poisoning

    Anyone can get food poisoning, but people in certain groups are more likely to get sick and to have a more serious illness. These groups are:

    • Adults aged 65 and older
    • Children younger than age 5
    • People who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body&rsquos ability to fight germs and sickness (weakened immune system)&mdashfor example, people with diabetes, liver or kidney disease, HIV, or cancer
    • Pregnant women

    If you or someone you care for has a greater chance of getting food poisoning, it&rsquos especially important to take steps to prevent it when preparing fruits and vegetables.

    Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts may lead to food poisoning. That&rsquos because the warm, humid conditions needed to grow sprouts also are ideal for germs to multiply. It&rsquos especially important to avoid raw sprouts if you are in a group more likely to get seriously sick from food poisoning: older adults, young children, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women.

    Watch the video: What is food safety? (July 2022).


  1. Kolton

    Not bad

  2. Haligwiella

    Authoritative answer, informative ...

  3. Guillaume

    Well, well, why is it like this? I think why not clarify this review.

  4. Quoc

    Please tell me - where can I find more information on this subject?

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