Minding food safety at the farmers' market

Consumer Reports' tips for buying fresh and local

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Saturday, May 25, 2019
Minding food safety at the farmers' market
Consumer Reports has advice on how to shop safely at farmers' markets

It's not just recalls you have to worry about when it comes to food safety.

Even when you buy fresh and local at a farmer's market, you have to take precautions to protect yourself and your family from getting sick.

Nationally, there are more than 87-hundred farmers markets registered with the Department of Agriculture.

In our area, many have just opened, or will be officially opening this weekend.

Consumer Reports has advice on how to shop safely.

For Joe Wallace, weekend mornings aren't complete without a trip to his local farmers market.

"I love the market because we've gotten to know some of the farmers over the years," says Joe.

"And I love the market because the food is really excellent!" he adds.

Farmers markets are a favorite, for good reason.

They can offer fresh, local and healthy foods.

But that doesn't always mean they're safe to eat.

"Foods sold at farmers markets can definitely still present food-borne dangers, including dangerous bacteria like salmonella, e-coli and listeria," says Sana Mujahid, Consumer Reports Food Safety Scientist.

The food-safety team at Consumer Reports says following a few, simple tips can help you shop safely at your local farmers market.

Be sure to only buy cider, milk and cheese that's been pasteurized.

This is especially important for pregnant women, young kids and people with compromised immune systems.

"Pasteurization is a process that heats products, like milk, to a specific temperature, for a certain amount of time. This kills dangerous bacteria and also extends the shelf life of food," says Mujahid.

Bring multiple bags, keeping ready to eat items separate from things like raw meat.

That helps avoid cross-contamination.

Also, be sure vendors are wearing gloves to handle unwrapped foods, and that cold items, such as eggs and meats, are in fact being kept cold.

"A typical refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees. If cold food sits at temperatures warmer than that, then bacteria can grow pretty quickly.," says Mujahid.

And, use plenty of ice and cold packs yourself, along with a cooler bag for perishables.

Buying them last also reduces the risk of spoiling.

No matter where you shop, it's important to practice food safety at home, too.

That includes preventing cross-contamination with raw meat and also washing all produce thoroughly.

Even if you peel it, bacteria on the outside of foods like melons and cucumbers can end up inside when you cut them or peel them.