Survey Of Food Safety Practices On Small To Medium-Sized Farms And In Farmers Markets
As produce consumption has increased, so have foodborne disease outbreaks associated with fresh produce. Little research has addressed food safety practices used on small to medium-sized farms selling locally or in farmers markets. This study evaluated current food safety practices used by farmers on small to medium-sized farms and managers of farmers markets in Georgia, Virginia, and South Carolina based on responses to surveys. Surveys were developed, pretested, and revised before implementation with target audiences and were implemented via mail and the Web to maximize participation, with reminders sent to nonrespondents. Data were collected from 226 farmers and 45 market managers. Frequencies and percentages were calculated for all response variables. Responses from farmers indicated that more than 56% of them use manures. Of those who use manures, 34% use raw or mixtures of raw and composted manure, and over 26% wait fewer than 90 days between application of raw manure and harvest. Over 27% use water sources that have not been tested for safety for irrigation, and 16% use such water sources for washing produce. Over 43% do not sanitize surfaces that touch produce at the farm. Only 33% of farmers always clean transport containers between uses. Responses from market managers indicated that over 42% have no food safety standards in place for the market. Only 2 to 11% ask farmers specific questions about conditions on the farm that could affect product safety. Less than 25% of managers sanitize market surfaces. Only 11% always clean market containers between uses. Over 75% of markets offer no sanitation training to workers or vendors. While farmers and market managers are using many good practices, the results indicate that some practices being used may put consumers at risk of foodborne illness. Consequently, there is a need for training for both farmers and market managers.