UMaine Food Scientist Offers Summertime Fresh Food, Safe Handling Tips

Contact: Beth Calder, (207) 581-2791

ORONO — The season is here for consumers to take their pick from the bounty of fresh, locally grown produce at farmers markets. To help ensure proper food handling practices by farmers and vendors, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Food Science Specialist Beth Calder has compiled a fact sheet.

A number of the tips also are important for consumers, whether purchasing fresh produce at markets or at stores, she says.

Beware of the temperature danger zone. Bacteria can grow rapidly between 40–140 degrees F — the typical temperature range at the height of farmers market season. Perishable items left in the temperature danger zone for more than two hours are not safe to eat. That includes perishable purchases left in consumers’ vehicles, she says.

When buying perishables, come armed with a cooler containing icepacks or ice. Perishables that need to be kept refrigerated include meat and meat products, milk and dairy products, eggs, baked goods with dairy-based frostings and/or fillings, berry fruits, and fruits and vegetables that are cut, sliced or processed.

Refrigerate or freeze fresh produce as soon as possible. That includes refrigerating eggs.

When sampling foods at the farmers markets, be mindful of hand sanitation. Take advantage of the hand sanitizer provided by vendors or bring your own. And avoid touching food samples that other people will be consuming.

Look for quality products packaged and displayed in a sanitary manner. That means food samples should be individually wrapped or placed under a dome to protect them from pests or animals. Perishable items should be kept in coolers on ice or icepacks, out of the hot sun.

The Cooperative Extension website has additional information.