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Consumer Reports: Don't get sick at the farmers market

Posted at 6:20 AM, May 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-31 12:07:17-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - For Joe Wallace, weekend mornings aren’t complete without a trip to his local farmers market.

“I love the market because we’ve gotten to know some of the farmers over the years," says Joe Wallace. “And I love the market because the food is really excellent!”

Farmers markets are a favorite, for good reason. They can offer fresh, local foods. But that doesn’t always mean they’re safe to eat.

“Foods sold at farmers markets can definitely still present food-borne dangers, including dangerous bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and listeria," says Consumer Reports Food Safety Scientist, Sana Mujahid.

Sana Mujahid is part of the food-safety team at Consumer Reports. She says following a few, simple tips can help you shop safely at your local farmers market. Be sure to only buy cider, milk and cheese that has been pasteurized. This is especially important for pregnant women, young kids and people with compromised immune systems.

“Pasteurization is a process that heats products, like milk, to a specific temperature, for a certain amount of time," says Mujahid. "This kills dangerous bacteria and also extends the shelf life of food.”

Bring multiple bags. Keeping ready to eat items separate from things, like raw meat, helps avoid cross-contamination. Also, look to be sure vendors are wearing gloves, to handle unwrapped foods. And that cold items, such as eggs and meats, are in fact being kept cold.

“A typical refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees," says Mujahid. "If cold food sits at temperatures warmer than that, then bacteria can grow pretty quickly.”

And, use plenty of ice, along with a cooler bag, for perishables. Buying them last, like Joe, also reduces the risk of spoiling.

Consumer Reports says no matter where you shop, it’s important to practice food safety at home, too. Including washing all produce thoroughly, even if you peel it. Bacteria on the outside of foods like melons and cucumbers can end up inside when you cut them or peel them.

For more information on food safety from Consumer Reports, click here.