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NC State Extension


This Frequently Asked Questions list serves to explain common questions that have been asked in regards to food safety at farmer’s markets as a part of the Good Farmer’s Market Practices (GFMPs) curriculum. GFMPs is a new food safety curriculum developed by N.C. Cooperative Extension including the following modules: Food Safety Principles, Personnel Health & Hygiene, and Food Sampling. The curriculum is intended to provide information to enhance the safety of products sold and practices at farmer’s markets across North Carolina.

1. What are GFMPs?

The GFMPs curriculum is specifically targeted to farmer’s market managers and vendors who will be responsible for implementing the practices that will help minimize risks when it comes to the safety of products sold and practices at farmer’s markets. The curriculum provides information to enhance the safety of products sold and practices at farmer’s markets across North Carolina. These efforts are being carried out to protect the farmer’s market sector by increasing good food safety practices and reduce the risk of foodborne illness outbreaks. Considering the increasing popularity of markets, a focus on safety of food products sold protects farmers, patrons, and local economies. Market managers and vendors are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more from this food safety at farmer’s markets curriculum.

2. How can a farmer’s market develop a good food safety culture?

As part of a good food safety culture, market managers and vendors need to know the risks associated with the products or meals produced, know why managing the risks is important, and how to effectively manage potential risks. A good food safety culture is displayed through scientifically validated safe food-handling behaviors.

3. What is food safety?

Food safety focuses on the handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Since we cannot see bacteria, preventing contamination, destroying harmful microorganisms, and limiting the growth of harmful microorganisms are steps to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

4. Are there specific foods that cause foodborne illness?

Since any food is capable of causing illness, it is important to focus on reducing the risk of foodborne illness no matter what food product you are selling. Disease causing bacteria can multiply rapidly in potentially hazardous foods if temperature controls are not used or are inadequate. Potentially hazardous foods include foods of animal origin that are raw or heat-treated, a food of plant origin that is heat-treated or consists of raw seed sprouts, cut melon, and garlic-in-oil mixtures that have not been properly acidified to prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria.

5. What foods are classified as low-acid foods? 

It is mostly important to know if a food is low-acid especially if you are canning it. Canned low-acid food recipes must be tested and registered with the FDA. Please take the Acidified Foods GMP School to help you think through safety concerns of your low-acid food products.

6. What foods are classified as ready-to-eat foods? 

Ready-to-eat foods are foods that do not need any further processing or cooking for safety. Some examples are salad, fruits, vegetables, baked goods, nuts, spices, fermented sausage, and deli meat.

7. What are the components of a handwashing station? 

Handwashing stations should include a water source, soap, clean water, paper towels, a catch basin for wastewater, and a trash receptacle.

8. Can one-use gloves and/or hand-sanitizer be used instead of handwashing? 

One-use gloves are capable of spreading germs and are not a substitute for handwashing. While gloves can be helpful for avoiding bare-hand contact with food, they must be used for single task and discarded if damaged or soiled. Hand sanitizer does not kill viruses so it should not be used in place of handwashing.

9. What are the safe methods for thawing foods? 

Improperly thawed food can support the growth of bacteria. Safe methods of thawing include in the refrigerator, during cooking, in the microwave oven followed by cooking, and under cold, running water.

10. Should I wash my eggs before taking them to market? 

No, washing eggs removes the natural coating on eggs which helps prevent bacteria from permeating the shell.

11. What is the safest method to give patrons samples? 

The best practice for giving patrons samples is to limit patron’s touching of samples. It is recommended that each vendor supplying samples provide a small garbage can for patrons to place their used sampling containers or utensils. Everyone is responsible for a good food safety culture and that includes patrons. As part of your food safety considerations and decisions toward best practices, think through patrons handling and sampling your food.

12. How should fresh-cut produce be stored? 

To help reduce the risk of foodborne microorganisms, fresh-cut produce should be prepared fresh every morning of the farmer’s market. Use a first-in, first-out method so as to not mix the new produce with old produce. To help prevent damage, avoid dropping and mishandling of fresh-cut produce.

13. What is the concentration of a sanitizing solution?

To make a sanitizing solution, ensure the concentration is 1 Tablespoon bleach to every 1 gallon of water.

Please take a look at some frequently asked questions. You may leave a comment or email a question directly to Benjamin Chapman at

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