If you’re a farmer’s market shopper, you’re part of a growing trend but your food might not be as safe as you think. That’s because there aren’t any federal regulations in place to make sure the produce at farmers markets is bacteria, disease or virus free!
Some local governments DO monitor the farmers and food producers that sell at local markets, but a lot of them don’t. And, small farms are completely exempt from the food safety standards that large farms have to adhere to. That means you have no way of knowing whether or not the food you’re buying at the farmers market is safe, or loaded with gut-busting bacteria.
Local food advocates say customers have nothing to worry about because there have been very few outbreaks traced to farmers markets. And they’re right - most outbreaks are linked to large factory farms or food that comes from other countries. However, the vast majority of food borne illnesses go unreported.
The government estimates that for every one case of salmonella they know about, there are nearly 30 cases they don’t, so illnesses linked to farmers markets could just be going unreported.
So what’s the bottom line? Eating local and organic is only worth it if you’re truly getting quality produce. So check with the managers of your local market. If they’re not taking pre-cautions like pre-screening vendors, and making farm visits, then go to a grocery store. And make it a habit of thoroughly washing your produce before you eat it.