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Farmers Market Food Safety: Health & Hygiene

Written by Sierra Blachford under the direction and review of Joan Hegerfeld-Baker (former SDSU Extension Food Safety Specialist).


Health, hygiene and hand washing apply to all stages of production, processing and marketing. Ill food handlers can easily contaminate fresh produce with disease-causing microorganisms. Many of these organisms have the capability to survive on fresh fruits and vegetables for an extended time, from several days to weeks. Once the organism is established on fresh produce, it is very hard to remove. If a vendor or employee is sick they should not handle food, food products, utensils, containers and other types of food contact surfaces. The following symptoms are indicative of a foodborne illness and necessary precautions should be followed to not contaminate produce:

  • Diarrhea, fever, vomiting, jaundice or sore throat with fever
  • A cut containing pus, such as a boil or infected wound that is draining and located on the hands, arms, wrists, or a body part that is not covered.
  • If the employee has been diagnosed with a foodborne illness or lives with someone that has been diagnosed with a foodborne illness.

The manager will make the decision to send the employee home or restrict the jobs that the sick individual performs that day.

Open wounds can harbor disease-causing microorganisms. If the wounds cannot be covered adequately with a bandage or glove, the field worker should not be handling fruits and vegetables or food contact surfaces, such as containers. Duties that do not involve contact with or close proximity to foods and food contact surfaces are recommended (3).


Good personal hygiene should also be practiced. Be certain to change out of any clothing worn in animal production areas before working with produce. Farming and growing produce can cause workers to become dirty, and it is important to clean up before attending the market and selling produce.

South Dakota Farmers Market Online Guidebook

This article is a portion of the South Dakota Farmers Market Online Guidebook.


  1. CDC 2011 Estimates: Findings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.
  2. Painter, John A., et al. Attribution of Foodbourne Illnesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths to Food Commodities by using Outbreak Data, United States, 1998-2008. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mar. 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.
  3. Retail Food Protection: Employee Health and Personal Hygiene Handbook. United States Food and Drug Administration, n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.