A Comprehensive Needs Assessment of Food Safety Practices of Farmers’ Market Vendors in Pennsylvania Using Direct Concealed Observations, Self-reported Surveys, and State Sanitarian Surveys
Having evolved since the colonial era, farmers’ markets have replaced old-world style markets, with over 8,500 U.S. farmers’ markets in operation today. As farmers’ markets have increased in size, scope, and complexity, so have the potential food safety risks. Previous research has revealed that farmers’ market vendors in the U.S. can lack important knowledge and experience in food safety practices. Numerous foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls associated with food products from farmers’ markets also have been reported, further highlighting the need to improve food safety practices of farmers’ market vendors. In response, some U.S. states have passed legislation or implemented policies specifically addressing food safety at farmers’ markets. Research in these areas continues to be critical to ensure public safety and preserve the farmers’ market movement. Using a 3-way approach, this study assessed food safety at Pennsylvania farmers’ markets using direct concealed observations (DCOs), self-reported vendor surveys, and state sanitarian surveys. The results revealed key distinctions between observed vendor food handling practices, by both researchers and state sanitarians, and vendor self- reported practices and assessed knowledge. The findings suggest that farmers’ market vendors in PA would greatly benefit from a customized food safety training program to address the identified issues and regulatory requirements for selling safe foods in Pennsylvania.
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