It’s officially summer, which means fresh, local produce is in season. One place we can buy these local fruits and vegetables are farm markets and roadside stands. Why shop at farm markets and stands? It’s a great way to support the local economy, local farmers, and it strengthens the community. It’s also a great way to find in-season produce at its peak nutrition and flavor, as well as a fun way to pick out something new to try.
We often think of farm markets as a place to sample foods, see a cooking demonstration, and socialize with others. While this year might look a little different, farm markets are still a great way to buy the local foods you are craving! Naturally, markets and stands are putting safety practices into place to decrease the spread of COVID-19, so check out your local market guidelines before you go. Some things to remember before shopping at farm markets and roadside stands this year include: Keep a six-foot distance between yourself and others, use hand sanitizer and wash your hands with soap and water when available, wear a face covering, stay home if you are sick, try to send only one adult per household to do the shopping, try not to touch produce and allow the vendor to package items for you, and be prepared to purchase whole, uncut produce or prepackaged foods.
Naturally, concerns about food safety may come up when purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, especially if you plan to eat the produce raw (uncooked). If you have questions about COVID-19 and food safety, you are not alone! The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) points out that foodborne viruses, which often cause gastrointestinal (stomach-related) illness, are different from coronavirus, which causes respiratory (breathing-related) illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there is currently no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. This means there is nothing indicating that COVID-19 is spread through food, so usual food safety procedures should be followed. According to the FDA this means washing your hands before preparing and eating food, and washing produce under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking. It is not recommended to wash fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or produce wash, and do not use bleach or disinfecting products on food.
Finally, with summer cookouts in full swing, remember to keep cold food cold and hot food hot! The food danger zone is between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold food should be stored at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and hot food should be held at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, remember the two-hour rule! Perishable food left at room temperature should be refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below within two hours, and if it is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above, that time reduces to one hour.
Do you have other questions about food safety? Do you plan to preserve your own food this year? Wayne County Ohio State University Extension has a variety of resources on food safety and food preservation, as well as pressure canner gauge testing. Call us 330-264-8722 to learn more about our resources and services!
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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