farmmarket-main | By: CAROL GUENSBURG |
farmmarket-policy | By: BARTHOLOMEW SULLIVAN |
farmmarket-tips | By: CAROL GUENSBURG |
farmmarket-push | By: CAROL GUENSBURG |
Scripps reporters investigated conditions at 30 markets in 10 states and the District of Columbia and found a hodge-podge of regulations, spotty inspection records and some questionable sanitation practices.
By: Carol Guensburg, SHNS
To supplement existing protections and offset shortcomings in the U.S. food-safety system, Barbara Kowalcyk, who leads the nonprofit Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention in Raleigh, N.C., and other experts urge consumers to observe and ask questions. Among them:
-- Is the market clean and organized, with vendors grouped by what they sell?
-- Does the market display information about food safety or inspections?
-- Does the market require vendors to sell only what they've raised or made, or does it let them resell merchandise? At producer-only markets, vendors can share firsthand details about how a product was grown, prepared and handled. Otherwise, they should indicate the farm of origin.
-- Do vendors have overhead shelter, such as awnings, to safeguard products from direct sun, rain and bird droppings?
-- Does the market ban pets or restrict them to a particular area or a short leash? You don't want customers petting Fido and then handling food.
-- Does the market have ready access to soap and running water for market workers and customers? Cleanliness -- of hands, cutting boards and utensils -- is the most effective deterrent to contamination.
-- Is the individual stand clean and well organized? Does the vendor appear to be neat and clean?
-- Are potentially hazardous foods kept at appropriate temperatures? Meat, poultry and dairy products should be held at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Hot, ready-to-eat foods should be at least 140 degrees.
-- Except for fresh produce, are food items kept covered? Does the vendor wear gloves or use utensils to avoid bare-hand contact? Are samples kept in containers or under plastic or served in individual containers or with toothpicks? Customers can be a source of contamination, too.
-- Do your part. Come to market with clean bags -- and an insulated one, if you're buying temperature-sensitive foods, experts say. And remember to thoroughly wash what you buy before serving it to your family.
See more advice from the federal Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.