The Watsonville, Calif.-based Alliance for Food and Farming’s Safe Fruits and Veggies campaign has issued a consumer guide for food safety at farmers markets.
The guide lists points to consider when consumers choose a vendor at a farmers market to purchase safe fruits and vegetables,
“By just asking a few simple, polite questions, consumers can quickly tell if the vendor is knowledgeable about the food he/she is selling,” the guide said.
Under the heading “know your farmer,” the guide suggests consumers to consider asking questions about the location of the farm and when the fruits and vegetables were harvested.
“It is really just a way to start a conversation about some of these topics at farmers markets,” said Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the alliance.
Dolan said the release of the consumer guide coincides with the observance of National Farmers Market Week during the first week of August.
The food safety guide for farmers markets also suggests consumers are clear about “certified statements” such as “pesticide free” and “organic.”
“If a farmer is certified as organic then they will have documentation verifying this or will be able to tell you about the comprehensive process,” the guide said.
If a vendor claims to offer “pesticide free” produce, the guide said to consider asking how a grower controls pests and diseases.
The consumer guide said consumers should place food safety first when they choose farmers market vendors.
“Unlike fruits and vegetables grown and sold to your local grocery stores, fruits and veggies sold at farmers’ markets are often unregulated and even exempted from food safety regulations,” the guide said.
While outbreaks linked to farmers markets are rare, the consumer guide said consumers may find it instructive to ask about food safety practices at the farm. Specifically, the guide said that questions about livestock barriers to crops, the safety of irrigation water and types of fertilizers used may be helpful to determine the food safety practices at a farm.
The suggested questions, the guide said, are similar to those asked by local grocery stores and restaurants of the farmers who supply their fruits and vegetables.
Most vendors selling at farmers markets may not be subject to the same scrutiny by a buying entity or the government, therefore shoppers may want to ask just a few of these questions to learn more about how the food is produced,” the guide said.
“Asking questions provides a wonderful opportunity to learn more about how food is grown and really connect with local farmers,” the guide said.