Identification of Risky Food Safety Practices at Southwest Virginia Farmers’ Markets

Stephanie Pollard, Renee Boyer, Benjamin Chapman, John di Stefano, Thomas Archibald, Monica A. Ponder, Steven Rideout

Biblographic citation: Food Protection Trends, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 168-175, May 2016

Volume 36, Issue 3: Pages 168–175

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The growing popularity of farmers’ markets, coupled with an increased number of producerelated foodborne outbreaks, highlights the need to ensure proper food handler practices by small produce vendors at these markets to protect farmers, patrons and local economies. The absence of proper food safety practices may increase contamination or microbial growth opportunities in the farmers’ market sector. The purpose of this study was to identify risky food safety practices by produce vendors at Southwest Virginia farmers’ markets, using an observational data collection method. Five farmers’ markets were observed for risky food handling practices via a secret shopper method. Vendors and market managers at three of the observed markets received food safety training delivered through cooperative extension. The vendors and market managers in the remaining two markets did not receive any training. Regardless of training, numerous risky food safety behaviors were observed, including temperature abuse, crosscontamination opportunities, and poor personal hygiene and sanitation. There were no differences in the prevalence of risky food safety practices between trained and non-trained vendors and market managers. The results of this study highlight the need for effective and relevant food safety training and/or interventions with small produce vendors, which can result in vendors using safe food handling practices.

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