Shopping at a farmers’ market can be a great way to get locally-grown, fresh fruit, vegetables, and other foods for you and your family. Market stands in the Madison area this past weekend were overflowing with winter squashes, apples, potatoes (white and sweet), cabbage, onions, peppers and even some late-season lettuce and tomatoes.
As more and more people shop at farmers’ markets, it’s important to remember those food safety steps that keep that farm-fresh food safe to eat.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking. Don’t use soap or detergent. Commercial produce washes are not necessary, they may make your produce look shinier but they will not make it any safer.
- Wash fruits and vegetables even if you plan to peel the items before eating. Any bacteria present on the outside of items like melons can be transferred to the inside when you cut or peel them.
- Refrigerate cut or peeled fruits and vegetables within two hours after preparation, and keep them cold. Remember to use an ice pack to keep cut or peeled produce cold in a lunch box.
Juices and Cider
Before you purchase juice or cider, check to make sure it 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.
Milk and Cheeses
- Buy only pasteurized milk. Raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms, such as Salmonella, toxin-producing E. coli, and Listeria, that can pose serious health risks to you and your family. See Myths about Raw Milk for more information.
- Pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes. One source for this bacteria is soft cheese such as Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, cream-style cheese, queso blanco, queso fresco, and panela made from unpasteurized milk. If you are in the at-risk group, or you are caring for someone in this group, only purchase soft cheeses made from pasteurized or heat-treated milk. Individuals in the at-risk group must also take care to avoid blue-veined cheeses or mold-ripened cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, and blue-cheeses, whether made from pasteurized milk or not.
- Purchase eggs only if properly chilled at the market. The Food and Drug Administration requires that untreated shell eggs 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.
- Meat must be properly chilled at the market. Meat should be kept in closed coolers with adequate amounts of ice to maintain cool temperatures.
- Transport meat safely. Bring an insulated bag or cooler with you to the market to keep meat cool on the way home.
- 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.
Practicing these few food safety tips will help you and your family enjoy the end-of-the-season bounty. And remember that www.foodsafety.gov is a place to find up-to-date food safety information. Stay food safe! Barb