It??s a summertime tradition growing in popularity across the Heartland. From the farmers selling directly from the field to the amateurs selling home baked goods, the farmers market has something for everyone.
??I just really like the idea of buying local and knowing that my food hasn??t traveled thousands of miles to get where it is,?? said Kirksville Farmers Market customer Carrie Mascci.
While the number of farmers markets continue to grow, the number of inspectors does not. The problem lies with the laws. In Missouri, there are no state laws when it comes to safety regulations leaving it up to local authorities. With the markets having a variety of vendors, there are a variety of different regulations administrated by different agencies.
Vendors that sell fruits and produce have no regulations. Baked goods, jams, and jellies, the state actually has an exemption for those items. They are considered non-potentially hazardous. The vendor can actually make those products directly in their home, no inspection required. However, the label is supposed to list that it was made in a non-inspected facility.
Egg and meat vendors do have to get temporary food permits. They are expected to maintain proper temperatures and the products must actually be inspected by the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
The vendors that are actually preparing food on site must also have a temporary food permit and follow the recommended safety procedures. Still, not all things are allowed at the markets. Salsas and pickles, or acidified foods, are not allowed.
While investigating the Kirksville farmers market, KTVO actually found vendors selling fresh salsa with samples out on a table in the heat. So why aren??t the rules being enforced?
??I get up there at least once and probably a couple of times this year. The problem is with us being short staffed now with budget cuts plus with it being on a Saturday. Each week is a different week so we have no control on who is going to be there,?? said Adair County Environmental Public Health Specialist Stewart Blessing.
Some vendors were breaking the rules and they didn??t even know it. For the most part, everyone was following the proper safety procedures.
??We make sure the eggs get refrigerated as soon as possible after they get picked up from the chicken coop. We wash them and make sure they stay in a refrigerator at 45 degrees or below. The meat side, we only deal with frozen meats. They come from the processor frozen and they stay in our deep freeze at a temperature of around zero degrees. Transporting we just make sure everything stays cool in coolers and get up here as soon as possible until we get electricity where they remain in our deep freeze which is running,?? said Coleman Farms Brian Coleman.
KTVO talked to many people that didn??t even realize the lack of regulations. Most were concerned over it, but said they mostly knew the vendors personally and were not particularly concerned over problems.
So should you be worried the next time you buy something at the farmers market?
??It depends on what you are buying. If you are just buying fruits and produce, making sure the product is in good shape and not sitting on the ground or something. It is a raw product that is going to be cooked and prepared so there is not a lot of risk involved. If it is a meat, egg product, or something like that, you want to make sure it is being kept at the appropriate temperatures,?? Blessing said.
Now this doesn??t mean you should stop going to your local farmers market. And KTVO found out that there have been no reported cases of food illnesses from the farmers market. Officials recommend asking questions regarding the safe handling of your food, where it came from, and how it was prepared. It only takes one product to make a person sick.