The spring weather is warming up again, and that has many of us thinking about crisp, garden-fresh vegetables and juicy, sun-ripened fruits. While most of these aren’t quite in-season yet in Minnesota, that doesn’t stop farmers markets throughout the state from opening for business.
Foods like meats, eggs, jams, pickles, cheeses, and more may be available, and it won’t be long before the produce starts becoming plentiful.
If you’re out at the markets this spring we want to encourage you to keep food safety in mind as you browse. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has Operational Guidelines for Farmers’ Market Vendors that need to be followed, and many markets also have their own food safety rules.
Of course farmer’s markets strive to deliver safe, high-quality food, but it’s still important for you to follow good practices as you buy and prepare it. Foodsafety.gov, a blog providing “Practical information and tips from the experts to help you and your family stay food safe” has some great tips to help you do just that.
- Before and after preparing fresh produce, wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking. We don’t recommend washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes.
- Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first. Any bacteria present on the outside of items like melons can be transferred to the inside when you cut or peel them.
- Be sure to refrigerate cut or peeled fruits and vegetables within two hours after preparation.
Juices and Cider
Check to see whether the juice or cider has been treated (pasteurized) to kill harmful bacteria. Pregnant women, children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems should drink only pasteurized or treated juice. For more information, see Two Simple Steps to Juice Safety.
Milk and Cheeses
- Don’t buy milk at a farmer’s market unless you can confirm that it has been pasteurized. Raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, that can pose serious health risks to you and your family. See Myths about Raw Milk for details.
- Pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for illness caused by Listeria. One source for this bacteria is soft cheese made from unpasteurized milk. If you buy soft cheese (including feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, queso blanco, queso fresco, and panela), check the label to make sure that it’s made from pasteurized or treated milk.
- Make sure that eggs are properly chilled at the market. FDA requires that untreated shell eggs must be stored and displayed at 45°F.
- Before buying eggs, open the carton and make sure that the eggs are clean and the shells are not cracked.
- Make sure that the meat is properly chilled at the market. Meat should be kept in closed coolers with adequate amounts of ice to maintain cool temperatures.
- Bring an insulated bag or cooler with you to the market to keep meat cool on the way home.
- Be sure to keep meat separate from your other purchases, so that the juices from raw meat (which may contain harmful bacteria) do not come in contact with produce and other foods.