Farmers Markets are a great way to encourage people to buy locally and to support their community. Food, however, can be a vehicle for many germs, some of which can cause foodborne illness and make people very sick.
Public Health Inspectors are an important resource in making sure that the food safety requirements are met by food vendors at farmers’ markets. The Perth District Health Unit hopes the farmers’ market is a great success and that this information will help you handle food safely.
What is the Public Health Inspector’s Role with Farmers Markets?
- Consult with market manager and food vendors to discuss any food safety questions or concerns
- Educate market manager and food vendors on safe food handling and food safety concerns at farmers’ markets
- For Non-Exempt Farmers’ Markets: Inspect the farmers’ market for compliance with the Ontario Food Premises Regulation 493.
- For Exempt Farmers’ Markets: Assess the Farmers Market to ensure there are no health hazards as outlined in the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
- Work with market managers and food vendors to correct any non-compliance issues
Exempt Farmers Market:
The proportion of vendors selling their own farm products is great than 50%. Ontario Food Premises Regulation 493 does not apply; however, other relevant legislation is still applicable such as Health Protection and Promotion Act, Milk Act.
Non-exempt Farmers Market:
The proportion of vendors selling their own farm products is less than 50%. The Ontario Food Premises Regulation 493 applies as well as other relevant legislation such as the Health Protection and Promotion Act, and the Milk Act.
How to Become a Market Vendor?
- Call the farmers market organizer first to see if space is available. The market organizer coordinates and approves the vendor spaces, not the Health Unit.
- Undergo a risk assessment by a public health inspector prior to becoming eligible for a booth at the market. Applications are available through the market organizer.
- Provide a copy of a current satisfactory inspection report if applicable
- Ensure that products and practices meet legislative requirements.
What Cannot Be Sold at the Market?
- Ungraded eggs – proof of grading required
- Unpasteurized dairy products
- Meats that have not been federally or provincially inspected – receipts required
- Potentially hazardous food or drink prepared, processed or handled in a private home
Potentially Hazardous Foods:
As defined in the Food Retail and Food Services Code means any food that consist in whole or in part of milk, milk products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish (edible mollusca and crustacean), or any other ingredients in a form capable of supporting growth of infectious and, or toxigenic microorganisms. This does not include foods which have a potential of Hydrogen (pH) level of 4.6 or below and foods which have a water activity of 0.85 or less.
What Foods Can You Prepare At Home?
- Non-hazardous foods are acceptable, but must be approved by a Public Health Inspector
Non-hazardous food items include: apple sauce, brownies, bread and buns (no dairy or cheese fillings), butter tarts, cakes (icing sugar only; no whipped cream), dry cereal products, chocolate, cinnamon buns, dry noodles, pickles, relish, cookies, dried fruits, fresh fruits and vegetables, rice crispy cake, fruit pies and pastry, fudge, hard candy, honey, jam, jelly, muffins, popcorn, maple syrup, toffee.
For Market Organizers
What are the Health Unit’s Expectations of Market Organizers?
- To have a general understanding of all applicable legislation – Ontario Food Premise Regulation 493 for Non-Exempt markets and the Health Protection and Promotion Act for Exempt markets.
- Follow-up with health unit to discuss and correct any non-compliance issues that arise from inspections
- Collect and forward the Perth District Health Unit Farmers Market Information Form and each Farmers Market Food Vendor Form to the health unit prior to the market opening for the season or for those markets that are open year round prior to the first risk assessment date for that year (date will be indicated in Perth District Health Unit’s Annual Letter to Farmers’ Market Organizers in early spring.
- Refer any new vendors wishing to open at the market during the season to the health unit for follow-up by a Public Health Inspector.
- Ensure that home based food processors are inspected by the health unit. Out-of-county vendors will have to contact the health unit in their jurisdiction.
Food Safety Tips for Farmers Markets
- Wash hands often and well
- Sanitize countertops and other food contact surfaces as often as possible using a bleach and water solution (one teaspoon bleach per four cups of water).
- Do not handle food when you are sick – especially if you have been vomiting or have diarrhea.
- Protect food from contamination using food grade material and sneeze guards
- Keep food that is being stored at least 15 centimetres off the ground
- Food Samples
- Display only a few samples at a time so that there is frequent turnover.
- Keep control of sample distribution to decrease excessive contact by customers.
- Use single-serving methods such as tooth picks, and paper cups.
- Ensure that proper temperature conditions of samples are maintained less than 4°Celsius or 40°Fahrenheit.
- Use of a probe thermometer is the only way to ensure proper cooking temperatures
- Food handling at the market should be limited to those vendors who have access to a handwash sink. Handling includes slicing, cutting, juicing and mixing. As much food as possible should be brought to the market ready-to-serve in order to limit unnecessary handling. Utensils should be used to grab food items where possible.
- Handwash sinks may be shared by food vendors, but only if the vendors are located directly beside one another.
- Transport food in covered, insulated containers to keep hot foods hot above 60°Celsius or 140°Fahrenheit and cold foods cold less than 4°Celsius or 40°Fahrenheit.
- Use thermometers to monitor food temperatures.
- For hazardous foods that need to be kept cold, a refrigerator, cooler with ice packs or freezer is required with an accurate indicating thermometer.
- Do not over pack! Cool air must be able to circulate to keep food safe.
- Use a probe thermometer to measure the internal temperature of hazardous foods.
For more information, call Health Line at 519-271-7600 or toll-free at 1-877-271-7348 extension 267.