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Food safety risks at farmers markets, what vendors do to follow health codes

Posted at 5:00 PM, Nov 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-04 19:00:51-05

Buying food from farmers markets may come with food safety risks, according to a new Penn State study.

It showed several vendors, over a five-year-span, in Pennsylvania were not meeting food safety standards. Poor hand washing habits and cross-contamination were listed as some of the problems. Researchers looked at 42 vendors in 8 different markets. The study ultimately said these vendors did not do enough to prevent food borne illnesses from spreading. 

KGUN 9 On Your Side went to the FoodInRoot market in Tucson today to ask vendors how they keep the food they sell safe.

"Basically you go out, grow it, and come out and sell it," said Sandra Carey, the owner of Careless Coyote.

Carey started her business 10 years ago. She lives in Arivaca, but travels every week to set up shop in Tucson and in Green Valley for farmers markets. She says the food safety aspect of her business starts in the garden.

"People come into farmers markets, their looking for someone who's grown their food for them. And if you can explain how you've grown it, and what processes you use, they're comfortable with it. That's what they want," said Carey.

Carey says she washes the dirt off of anything she harvests, but there's really no need for gloves to handle the food - just like when you go to a produce section at a grocery store.

"Like anywhere else, people are going to put there hands on it, so you're going to wash it to make yourself comfortable that you're not picking up anything," said Carey.

Set a couple of booths away, Wild Will's Kettle Corn has a different process for food safety for his pre-bagged popcorn.

"We have our hot sink, we keep a clean ship. We wear gloves when we're bagging up the popcorn. We never touch the corn," said William Watts, the owner of Wild Will's Kettle Corn.

Watt's is a Tucson native who started this business several months ago. He's popping up in several farmers markets around the city, and says he's strict about following health codes.

"Everything we have here is sanitized and keeps it nice and clean. We keep everything washed off. State of the art, brand new equipment," said Watts.

Pima County's health department has a list of restaurants and their health inspection grades on its county website.