(Reuters Health) – Farmer market sellers could benefit from food security lessons, according to researchers from Pennsylvania State University.
The researchers visited the farmers 'markets throughout the state and practiced unsafe vendors' practices that could spread food-borne diseases. The sellers also investigated and compared the responses with their own observations and those of state health inspectors.
The results, published in Food Protection Trends, show a discrepancy between how salespeople said they were being carried out and how they were observed doing themselves, both by the healthcare providers and researchers involved in the study.
For example, 34.2 percent of respondents are self-reported with disposable gloves. But direct observations from researchers showed that less than 24 percent of suppliers had disposable gloves at the sales outlets. Within the group of sellers who used to wear disposable gloves, somewhat less than half used them incorrectly.
These results suggest that there may be a general lack of understanding among vendors about when to wear disposable gloves, when they change them and practices are unacceptable while using gloves, paper notes.
"If you look at the creation of farmers' markets, they are only sometimes pop-up shops that have refrigerators with food or tables with a plastic tablecloth over them," said Catherine Cutter, author of the study, at Reuters Health telephone. "Small things like using a clean or disposable table cloth, because wood surfaces are difficult to clean and can be sources of bacterial contamination, they can help. These types of things are very simple and relatively inexpensive."
Cutter and colleagues estimate in their article that, only in the United States, there are over 8,500 farmers markets, where sellers sell fresh products, appetizers, meat and seafood ready to eat.
But since these markets generally take place in the open air and lack a permanent infrastructure, access to hand washing facilities is often limited. The sellers have observed eating, coughing or sneezing and then handling raw foods or ready to eat without washing their hands.
"The lack of adequate handwashing stations and improper use of the glove were probably the biggest problems we have observed because there are chances of cross contamination," said Cutter.
"The importance of dealing with food in farmers 'markets is important. Given the growth of farmers' markets, people can buy more than just fruits and vegetables," said Carolyn Dimitri, who did not participate in the study.
Dimitri is an Associate Professor of Food Studies at the University of New York. She found the results of the study not surprising, but said that it was not clear which of the results were statistically significant.
Based on the observations made during the study, the research team designed a curriculum on food safety practices that sellers could benefit from.
"We created a face-to-face or online face-to-face classroom on food security of farmers' market especially for vendors, which is based on the things we saw in the study as problematic," said Cutter. "The program discusses the reasons why you need to change the gloves and wash your hands when handling money and food."
The data of this type are also useful for formulating policies and structuring guidelines, said Dr. Senaka Ranadheera, food scientist at the University of Melbourne, who did not participate in the study.
"The study was designed very well … Many diseases transmitted by food … are associated with steps in the food production chain, from the farm to the fork. Bad handling at any stage would cause serious problems related to food safety concerns . "
SOURCE: Bit.ly/2Ka4SiP Food Protection Trends, online on November 1, 2018.