Some farmers market vendors in Pennsylvania will be getting food safety training this summer courtesy of a new Penn State program. The pilot program in select cities across the state is directed at small-scale food processors and farmers. It includes a three-hour session that covers key food safety concepts, such as safe processing and preparation methods, and guidance for managing food safety risks in the retail setting. Cutter, a professor of food science and food safety Extension specialist, and Joshua Scheinberg, a doctoral student in food science, designed the program with another colleague after their research, published in 2013, showed that whole chickens sampled from farmers markets in Pennsylvania had higher percentages of Salmonella and Campylobacter than those at supermarkets. Farmers markets have become increasingly prevalent in recent years and have expanded beyond just fresh produce to include higher-risk foods, such as poultry and meats, cheeses, sauces and other prepared foods. “In 2010, when we started our research, the regulatory oversight of foods sold at farmers markets in Pennsylvania was just beginning, and we were concerned about how those high-risk foods were being produced and sold to the public,” Scheinberg said. After their poultry study, Cutter and Scheinberg continued exploring food safety challenges at farmers markets and identified key areas of focus for future training programs using vendor and market manager surveys, focus groups, concealed observations and surveys of Pennsylvania public health inspectors. They then worked with Martin Bucknavage, a senior food safety Extension associate, on their training program for vendors. “After four years of research, I’m really excited to put our results to use, and we are hoping that this training program is another step forward to ensure the success and viability of farmers markets in Pennsylvania,” Scheinberg said.

  • Jasper

    Its about time these farmers markets are forced to give a damn about food safety. Good luck with that Penn State. You’re going to need it.

  • kris

    I believe the smaller farmers do care about food safety.Otherwise they wouldn’t be selling the food they do. As a government worker, the regulations are confusing and health department do not do a good job of actually teaching what the regulations are and teaching food safety. Try reading your state’s food code!!!

    • Ben there Dunn that

      Actually small farms have a proud history of stubbornly refusing to observe food safety principles. Recall the FSMA debacle a couple years ago when small farmers cried and whined so piteously they were finally exempted from food safety regulations by the Tester amendment. At the time spokespeople for the small farm lobby had the nerve to suggest requirements as basic as providing a functional hand sink, so farm workers could wash their hands after relieving themselves and before returning to handling your food and mine, would put these farms out of business! The result – no hand sinks or other facilities to keep your food safe, no concern for the safety of your family or mine. If you “know your farmer”, you know you are on your own to protect your family from food poisoning when shopping farmers markets and CSA clubs. These small farmers routinely place profit over safety, wishfully claiming their produce is naturally safe as they always do, at best is an arrogant insult, at worst a mortal threat.