Farmers markets are a great place to find the freshest fruits, vegetables and protein available in your area, but while many are open amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to be mindful of food safety.

Most markets have their own food safety rules that vendors must comply with, as well as related government regulations, but markets can be exposed to contaminants such as dirt, bugs and pollutants. Site also often have little access to water for hand and product washing, and electricity for refrigerating.

Here are a few guidelines you should follow if you’re planning a trip to your local farmers market, according to Tennessee State University:

• Pay attention to the vendor’s food safety practices as you shop.

• Check the stands’ overall cleanliness including gloves and clean utensils for food handling.

• Take time to talk to and learn from vendors. Many vendors are eager to talk about their growing methods.

Eggs

• Eggs should be properly chilled at 40 F. Do not let them stay at room temperature.

• Make sure eggs are clean and shells are not cracked.

Fruits and vegetables

• Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before eating cutting or cooking. Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel to eliminate bacteria.

• Wash produce even if you plan to peel it before eating.

Milk and cheeses

• Only buy pasteurized milk products. If it is labeled “For animal use only,” it has not been pasteurized.

Meat

• Meat should be kept in closed coolers with adequate amounts of ice.

• Perishables must be refrigerated within 2 hours, so bring an insulated bag or cooler with you to keep meat cool.

• Separate meat from other ready-to-eat foods.

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