Researchers at Penn State University (PSU) have developed and piloted a food safety training program for farmers market vendors, in response to a need revealed by previous studies. The Penn State Extension is offering an online version of the training as a result of its success.

According to the PSU team, in most states, farmers market vendors and their food products may not be inspected by local, state, or federal officials, so the safety of foods sold at farmers markets may be unknown. Additionally, farmers market vendors may be uncertified or untrained in food processing and food safety concepts.

Designed by Penn State Extension educators experienced in retail food safety education, the PSU training program for farmers market vendors includes a slideshow presentation and a resource guide. The training discusses:

  • Evaluating potential food safety risks at farmers' markets, from harvest through sale
  • Equipping and operating food-safe facilities
  • Source and purchase ingredients
  • Handling and preparing food properly
  • Identifying onsite food safety procedures
  • What is required for proper recordkeeping, and food or ingredient traceability
  • Recognizing potential liability issues.

The training developed and tested through the PSU study was a three-hour, in-person program. Overall, participant scores on pre- and post-training assessments increased by 20 percent, indicating improved food safety knowledge. The results also demonstrated high agreement among participants on the importance of hygiene, handwashing, cross-contamination, thermometer use, and food safety hazards at farmers markets. Thermometer use was the only topic in which participants showed a significant increase in agreement between pre- and post-test assessments.