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Safe or Sorry? Shopping Smart at the Farmer's Market

Farmers Markets are a great place to visit with local vendors, browse a colorful assortment of foods and bring the tasty goodness of Minnesota grown foods home

by Virginia Nollmeyer, RD at Lake Region Healthcare

Farmers Markets are a great place to visit with local vendors, browse a colorful assortment of foods and bring the tasty goodness of Minnesota grown foods home.  Food safety can and should be a concern when deciding what foods to purchase, especially when shopping unfamiliar vendors. Here are some guidelines to help choose foods that are safe for consumption and foods to purchase with caution.

Understand the Requirements of Your Vendors

Cottage foods are foods that are prepared in an uninspected kitchen, typically at home, for the purpose of sale directly to the consumer.  Producers are required to be registered with the state of Minnesota.  Product preparation from canning and fermenting to baking and candy making must be done within the state and be sold in state.  

Producers attend food safety training sessions where they learn how to eliminate potential contamination during preparation, storage and sale.  Training topics include food that is safe to process for canning, cooking or baking for resale.  The background provided in these sessions give the vendor knowledge on how to prepare and provide the best product available with decreased risk to the consumer. 

Each sale item is required to have a label attached. The label must include the vendors name, physical address where the item was prepared, the date it was made, and an ingredient list including allergens.

Choose Wisely

  • When purchasing fresh, seasonal produce. Wash it well before use and eat it raw or cooked. 
  • For canned goods, pick fruits that are naturally acidic such as apples, berries, peaches or rhubarb.  Stay away from canned or processed melons. Canned vegetables have increased shelf life and are an excellent source of nutrients. Pickled and fermented products can add a zing of flavor. 
  • Enjoy a variety of vegetables, fruits, sauerkraut and vinegars. 
  • Avoid pickled eggs, meat and fish/seafood products and any fermented product needing refrigeration.     
  • Baked goods and candy come in many different flavors and varieties. A good rule of thumb is to ask, “does the product require refrigeration?”  If the answer is NO, then you are good to go.  Like canned goods, avoid meat, non-baked dairy, and eggs products and cream based or custard filled products.  That means banana cream pie is off the list.  Toppings such as frosting and icing are okay as long as they do not contain eggs, cream or cream cheese. 
  • A favorite at many Farmer’s Markets are the jellies, jams and salsas.  Pumpkin butter, foods with added alcohol, flowers and flavoring like lavender including flavored oils with herbs or garlic are not allowed to be sold. Other foods may be available to buy with caution. 
  • Fruit ciders and juices including vegetable are great if they have been pasteurized.   If you do not readily see pasteurized on the label talk to the vendor about the product.
  • When choosing pie fillings look for choices that are fruit-filled and do not contain starch or tapioca.

Bottom line, it's best to be informed about foods that are allowed to be sold at your local Farmers Market. For a full list of foods that are non-potentially hazardous click this link:

With these tips in mind, you can confidently visit a Farmer's market near you and get to know your producer who wants to help you enjoy the local products of Minnesota. 

Related links:

Lake Region Healthcare's Registered Dietitians

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