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Agriculture and Environment

Penn State Study Finds Farmers Markets Can Do Better For Food Safety

Penn State Food Science Professor Catherine Cutter headed the study into farmers markets.
Maddie Biertempfel
/
WPSU
Penn State Food Science Professor Catherine Cutter headed the study into farmers markets.

Eight years ago, Penn State Food Science Professor Catherine Cutter got a call that sparked a study into food safety at farmers markets.

"A colleague of mine was out and about and he calls me and he tells me 'There's a guy selling meat out of the back of his pickup truck in a cooler with product that is stamped "not for sale."' And it got us thinking, 'How many other people are doing this?'" Cutter said.

Now, the results of that five-year study find that vendors could do better.

Using data from observations, state inspections and self-reported vendor surveys, the study found issues with hand washing, personal hygiene and cross-contamination.

“It was very different than what the vendors say they were doing,” Cutter said.

To address this discrepancy, Penn State Extension developed an online curriculum to train farmers market vendors on food safety principles.

"We want to keep farmers markets in business. This is a huge economic facilitator in the state," Cutter said. "This is a great place for consumers to buy their food products, so we want to do this as safely as possible."

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