CONSUMER REPORTS — With food recalls in the news lately, you may be trying to shop locally, thinking it’s a better way to go. Well, you’ve got plenty of opportunities. There are more than 8,700 farmers markets registered with the Department of Agriculture, where you can buy local produce, meat, and eggs directly from farmers. But is shopping at a farmers market risk-free? Consumer Reports shows you how to do it safely.
Even food sold at farmers markets can present foodborne dangers, including bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, and listeria.
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 to a specific temperature for a certain amount of time. This kills dangerous bacteria and 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 when they handle unwrapped foods.
Items such as eggs and meats should be kept cold. A typical cooler should be kept at 40 degrees F. If certain foods sit at temperatures warmer than that, bacteria can grow pretty quickly. And use a cooler bag for perishables. Buying them last also reduces the risk of spoilage.
Consumer Reports says that no matter where you shop, it’s important to practice food safety at home, too. That includes washing all produce thoroughly, even items you peel. Bacteria on the outside of foods like melons and cucumbers can end up inside when you cut them or peel them.