By JENNIFER HELLER RUGENSTEIN, guest columnist
It’s great to get locally grown fresh produce and homemade food items from your farmers market.
Here are some things to think about to help keep that food safe.
Produce: Wash produce thoroughly in warm water. Studies have shown this to be the best way to clean produce. Also, wash your hands before and after handling produce. Refrigerate cut or peeled fruits and veggies within two hours.
Juices and ciders: Be sure to check that juices have been pasteurized. If not, don’t serve these to children, the elderly or to people with weakened immune systems. This can include diabetics and people on chemotherapy, among others.
Milk: Don’t buy unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. There is a reason milk is pasteurized: to kill harmful bacteria that may be present. Raw milk can contain salmonella, E.coli and listeria.
Eggs: Buy only from sellers that are registered with the egg board and licensed. Make sure the eggs are being held at 45 degrees or lower and are clean and not cracked.
Meat: Unless the seller is a licensed and registered wholesale meat operation, the only meat that home-based vendors can sell is frozen chicken or frozen rabbit meat. This meat is not inspected. Keep the meat separate from your produce or other purchases and in an insulated bag to keep it cold.
Taking samples: Use only tongs to select a sample or take a sample from a gloved vendor’s hand. The vendor should have a hand-washing station available at their booth.
Ordering in advance: You can order in advance from a vendor, but you must take possession of your goods at the market. They cannot deliver to you.
Labeling: All baked goods or homemade goods must have labeling in sight that tells you the ingredients, where it was made and when, the weight, and any allergens present in that food, like nuts, dairy, soy, tree nuts, etc., and a notice that this item is home-produced and not inspected by the state department of health.
Overall cleanliness: Let your instinct guide you. If you have doubts about a product or a vendor, or his stand, then don’t buy. The vendors at a farmers market are held to a particular standard by the food code and also to a standard set by the individual market manager. If you see something wrong or questionable, the market manager should address your concerns.
Jennifer Rugenstein is an environmental health specialist for the Brown County Health Department. She can be reached at 812-988-2255 or email@example.com.
The Bean Blossom Farmers Market will open Friday, May 13 at St. David’s Episcopal Church, at the junction of state roads 45 and 135 North. The market will be open each Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. until Sept. 30.