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Shopping at your farmers market is a great way to try new foods, get to know your local farmers and have fun. It’s also an easy way to stock up on some new and familiar fruits, vegetables and other cancer-protective foods. Like any food shopping trip, it’s good to be aware of food safety issues. To help you get the most out of your experience and shop safely, we have some tips and tools.
Before you leave home, don’t forget to grab a few re-usable grocery bags for convenience and easy shopping.Also pack a couple of insulated/freezer bags if you plan to purchase meat, poultry, eggs or dairy items. A small cooler with ice will also do the trick. Otherwise, if your trip extends two hours after you’ve purchased perishables, those items will be at risk for spoiling, especially in the summer heat.
Don’t buy the first thing you see. Walk around the market at least once to see what the vendors are offering and at what price. Bring a paper and pencil if it helps to write down what you find. Eggs, dairy products, juices, pre-cut fruits and vegetables, meat, seafood, and poultry, should be chilled on ice while on display. If not, avoid these products.
Just as you would with fresh supermarket produce, be sure to wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating. Washing your fruits and veggies will get rid of dirt and many types of bacteria, reducing your risk of food-borne illness. Even if you're not eating the skin or rind, when you cut into a melon for example, you can spread bacteria into the flesh. So give it a good wash and/or scrub. The government recommends using plain running water - here are their tips.
Most states have regulations for home prepared items like baked goods, jams or preserved foods. Check with your local health department for more information in your area.
Make foods that need to stay chilled or frozen your final purchases to minimize the amount of time between the market and your home. Place your meat, poultry, and seafood in separate bags away from produce and other items. Your cooler or insulated bags will come in handy now.
How many different colors of veggies and fruit can you buy?
Including a variety of colors in your weekly menu means you’ll also get a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and cancer-protective phytochemicals like carotenoids, polyphenols and flavonoids.
Try something new. Even if you don’t like the traditional red beets, you may find the milder flavored golden beets more to your liking.Chat with the farmer about foods you’ve never tried or don’t recognize. He or she can talk about the taste, texture and how to prepare them. You may even get a little taste! Check out your local farm websites, many of them have recipes and information on how to handle their produce.
Some markets have food stands where you can get snacks or even lunch. As with any prepared food served to you, make sure the cold food is cold and the hot food is hot. Proper cooling and heating keeps your risk of food poisoning low.
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