Farmers Market Vendors Need Food-Safety Training, Penn State Study Shows

Penn State researchers who have completed a five-year study on food safety at farmers markets say that many vendors take inadequate precautions to reduce food-safety risks and should receive training in food safety. The research assessed food safety-behaviors at Pennsylvania farmers markets using direct concealed observations, state sanitarian observations, and self-reported vendor surveys. Researchers found a vast difference between what vendors reported they were doing and what observers saw them doing. Hand washing, personal hygiene, and cross-contamination were specific problem areas, with vendors failing to use disposable gloves and handling money or unpackaged foods without changing gloves. Researchers checked samples of leafy green produce and meat obtained from Pennsylvania farmers markets for coliforms, fecal coliforms, Listeria, and E. coli. They found E. coli in 40% of beef samples and 18% of pork samples, and in 28% of kale samples, 29% of lettuce samples, and 17% of spinach samples. They found Listeria in 8% of beef samples, 2% of kale samples, 4% of lettuce samples, and 7% of spinach samples. An earlier phase of this same project developed developed a curriculum for training farmers market vendors in food safety that is available online through the Penn State Extension website.