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Are You Failing at the Farmers Market: 7 Fast Fixes

Shopping your local farmers market is one way to ensure that what you're buying is seasonal, fresh and local. Read our seven tips before your next trip.

Nothing beats a farmers market experience for the chance to find locally grown fruits and veggies and shop homemade jams, brats and burgers. This summer, farmers markets are back in full swing!

Shopping your local farmers market means shopping seasonally and sustainably. Even better, a trip to the farmers market is a great way to get kids interested in trying new foods, learning where their food comes from and inspiring them to reach for a bag of grapes instead of chips (at least some of the time). You're creating lifelong experiences around good eating and healthy habits.

But while farmers markets offer fresh, locally grown fruits and veggies, produce can still be contaminated with Salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria. Contamination can happen when crops are exposed to natural fertilizer or bacteria naturally found in the soil or irrigation water. It can even be contaminated during the food preparation and storage processes.

Forty-six percent of foodborne illnesses are attributed to produce, compared to meat and poultry (22 percent) and fish and shellfish (6.1 percent). The incidence of produce-related foodborne illness is high because fruits and veggies are often consumed raw, so no heat is applied to kill potential bacteria.

Try these seven quick tips on your next trip to your local farmers market.

  • BYOB: Bring Your Own Bags

    Reduce waste at the market and in your own home by bringing your own reusable shopping bags. A mini cooler with a few damp paper towels can keep highly perishable items like fresh herbs and certain vegetables hydrated and prevent wilting on the way home.
  • Ask Questions

    Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the food you buy. Should the product be stored in the refrigerator? How long will the produce last? Take the opportunity to ask the farmer any questions you may have about the food and how it’s been grown.
  • Meaty Matters

    Make sure meat is kept cold in a closed, iced cooler. Keep it separate from other fresh produce to prevent cross contamination. You do not want juices from raw meat (which may contain harmful bacteria) to contaminate your other items.
  • Shop with a Careful Eye

    Inspect your food before buying it. Make sure the produce you purchase isn’t bruised or damaged. Check that eggs are properly chilled, cleaned and not cracked.
  • Scrub it Up

    When you get home, rinse your fruits and vegetables even those with hard skin or that will be peeled with cool running water and pat them dry with a clean paper towel. Bacteria can easily be transferred to the parts you eat when you cut them up or peel.
  • From Farm to Fridge

    Make sure to store your food items the right way for both safety and quality. Produce stored in the refrigerator should not be near or under raw meat, seafood, poultry or eggs. Produce kept at room temperature should be stored away from non-food items like household chemicals.
  • Prep Properly

    When prepping fruits, veggies or meats, always wash your hands first and use separate cutting boards for produce and raw meat. You are the last line of defense in reducing the risk of foodborne illness by following safe food handling practices.

Check that your refrigerator is set to the proper temperature. Fresh meats, dairy products, and perishable fruits and vegetables need to be stored below 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius).

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