Given a choice between whether food from a farmers market or a food store presented a greater risk of food poisoning, most people would point to the food store as more dangerous: we imagine that farmers market vendors hold themselves to higher standards and that their products are of higher quality. Unfortunately, a recent study conducted at Penn State University has shown that is not always the case.
The research, which was published in the journal Food Protection Trends, indicates that the vendors observed at dozens of Pennsylvania farmers markets were not in keeping with generally accepted sanitation practices, and as a result, there was a surprising level of harmful bacteria identified in many of the products being sold.
Though we tend to associate food quality with safety,
Study Shows Food Poisoning Risk is High At Farmers Markets
Samples tested at Pennsylvania farmers markets found that the risk of food poisoning from E. coli was particularly high, with the bacteria found in 40 percent of beef samples, 18 percent of pork, roughly one-third of kale and lettuce and 17 percent of spinach being sold. Many of those products also showed contamination with listeria, though it was not present in as great a percentage of the products where it appeared.
In order to protect yourself from food poisoning, consumers are urged to clean the food that they buy, to cook it properly, to prevent cross contamination and to make sure that it is kept chilled. Still, the larger responsibility lies with the vendors, who need to follow food safety practices.