Farm market managers have roles in safety actions

AFP Correspondent

LINCROFT (March 1, 2016) — As farmers’ markets proliferate around the state, a whole new set of people, market managers, need to be aware of food safety.
Two sessions of the NOFA-NJ Winter Conference were devoted to food safety and both addressed farmers’ markets, farm stands and CSAs.
Donald Schaffner, an Extension specialist in food science, addressed farmers who want to add items made on-farm to what they are selling.
Meredith Melendez, Mercer County ag agent, focuses on supporting new and beginning farmers, and concentrated on updates to the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Schaffner pointed farm market managers to “Chapter 24 and You,” a booklet that distills rules from Chapter 24 of the New Jersey Department of Health Regulations.
The introduction to the booklet calls it a “plain language guide.”
Market managers should use it in making decisions about what products and practices can be included in their markets, he said.
The booklet details the possibilities for selling poultry, eggs, meats, prepared foods and baked goods.
Canned/jarred foods are divided into those that are refrigerated and high acid and those that are acidified and intended for refrigerated storage.
There are also rules for packaged “acidified foods” intended for refrigeration and for cheese.
Because cottage food operations are not allowed in New Jersey, all food is required to be prepared in licensed and inspected commercial kitchens.
Similar to farm markets are you-Pick operations that invite people to the farm to touch the produce.
Melendez explained farmers must show visitors their policy for food safety and the hand washing station, “including the trash can” to keep them in the cleanliness loop.
CSAs with work shares need to have the same kind of policies for shareholders in the fields as you-Picks have.
Both need to create a policy for service animals such as Seeing Eye dogs, that must be allowed in the fields, she said.
“Agri-tourism is where things are going to get sticky,” she said, because of all of the non-workers allowed on a farm.