McFarland Clinic

Food Safety & the Farmers' Market

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May 14, 2012

Farmers’ markets across the state opened this month, bringing fresh, local produce to the fingertips of community members. Yet raw produce, whether bought at a grocery store or the farmers' market, can carry bacteria or viruses that will make you sick, and it's important to remember food safety tips when shopping for food at your local market. 

“The most common illnesses you are going to get from a farmers’ market are the same illnesses you would get from a person,” says McFarland Clinic Adult Medicine physician Jennifer Killion, MD. “Viruses are most common (colds and gastroenteritis) and are transmitted by putting them in our mouths. Lack of places to wash your hands and eating food handled by other people can spread viruses.”

Following these food safety guidelines can help keep you and your family illness free.

Buying

Buying locally grown vegetables during primary growing seasons allows for best quality. When purchasing produce, look for vendors who practice safe food handling, storage and transportation.

This includes:

  • Food stored in containers that protect the integrity of the product and ensure that there is no risk for contamination
  • Employees' hands washed or covered with gloves when handling food
  • Produce bagged separately from meat/poultry

“Farmers’ markets often have hand sanitizer available – make use of this to help limit contamination,” says Dr. Killion.

Storing

Storing food appropriately will help minimize any risk of food borne illnesses. Once home, be sure to wash fresh produce before refrigerating.

Other storage tips:

  • Leftovers should be only kept unrefrigerated for 2-3 hours
  • Produce and raw meat should be stored separately in the fridge to prevent contamination
  • Reusable bags should be washed regularly

“Any fresh produce that is not peeled or cooked before eaten should be washed prior to consumption,” says Dr. Killion.

Preparing

Finally, preparing food properly can further eliminate any risk of illness.

Prior to cooking:

  • Wash hands and surfaces of kitchens
  • Keep produce and raw meat separate
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised spots

When cooking:

  • Use a food thermometer to ensure food is cooked to the right temperature
  • Cold foods should be kept cold; hot foods should be kept hot
  • Afterward, refrigerate foods quickly to avoid bacteria growth 

 “True bacterial food borne illnesses takes 1-4 days to show its effects. Typical symptoms include diarrhea, sometimes with fever and vomiting.  If the diarrhea has blood in it that is particularly concerning and medical attention should be sought immediately,” says Dr. Killion.

For more information on food safety visit the following links:

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