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Fear of green market foods - homemade sold at the market

We have a few green markets back now that it's season here in South Fl and I have talked to a few people about how terrific the mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, home churned butter, organic eggs, home made yoghurts, breads, cakes, grass fed meats, fish etc are and some have said they wouldn't buy those goods at market because there's no way of knowing if the containers are sterilized or who checks their kitchens and processes. One friend said she would be scared to eat the yoghurt and would rather buy it at the supermarket.

I buy these kind of items all the time and have never suffered any kind of stomach bug but I know there is a fear of no sell by dates and 'safety' checks. I have said that you can get sick from supermarket dairy foods and meats anyhow but these people cannot be swayed.

Anybody else feel nervous?

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  1. Different Farmers' Markets have different rules about who can sell and what conditions their food must be produced under so for people who are nervous but would like to try those things it is worth it to contact the organization that sponsors the FM and see what their rules are. I just checked the rules at mine and it says "all unfarmed edible items...must be made in commercial kitchens approved by the County" so that makes me comfortable. I tend not to worry about those kind of things however--never had any kind of food poisoning in more than 60 years of life.

    1. I feel exactly the opposite. I buy small batch homemade items all the time, for thirty five years, no ill effect.

      1. So your friend thinks food manufacturing plants are limited to no rodent hairs or bug parts in their products and have no rats, roaches, etc. running around? Guess again.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mcf

          right mcf I have said this that there is no guarantee that something made in a factory or packaged in plastic is safe. Look at all the recalls in supermarkets.

          1. re: smartie

            And re: supemarket recalls and product recalls, isn't it just something how those large corps. are in no way actually required to post the recall notices in a conspicuous place? If we're LUCKY, it will hit the press, especially if the item's a big seller (peanut butter, hamburger, and the like) but I can tell you that in the last supermarket I saw a recall notice actually posted, it was on a teeny tiny bulletin board, tacked up like so much trash next to a bunch of other bullshit that had nothing to do with anything involving the recall, and the bulletin board was strategically placed in a little hallway (aisle, actually) leading to the washroom. Talk about lack of accountability!

        2. Wow, short answer = no. I buy a lot of greenmarket products and have never yet gotten sick from a single thing - to be honest, I tend to believe that small independent producers are more careful because they're not putting out a huge branded corporate product that doesn't require the company to explain itself. I have friends who have the same types of fear about eating from streetfood vendors or taco trucks, and I find it equally ridiculous: if your food is making people sick, you are NOT going to be around long at all; you WILL get shut down - if people just dont stop patronizing you altogether. I think that if a greenmarket stand is clean in appearence and the food is well-displayed, at LEAST that much care has gone into the packaging and sterility of the containers. I don't believe anybody would violate (at least not knowingly) the most basic rules of food hygiene......considering they're probably eating it themselves, too!! :)

          1. Here in Pennsylvania, or at least in my township, any food offered for sale must be produced in an inspected commercial kitchen, one that is not used for home food preparation. Most of the stands at my farmers market are owned by Amish or Mennonite families, and I suspect that rule is not strictly followed when it comes to all their wonderful pickles,preserves, and other jarred foods. However, as stated above, if the stand is clean and well-presented, I assume they are taking the same care with preparation. If I didn't, think of all the great treats I would miss!

            14 Replies
            1. re: FrauMetzger

              Frau, this is SO off-topic, but boy I LOVE the word "township" and "parish" when it comes to geographical borders. So homey, so old-fashioned, so cool. Have a great day. Oh, and I'd eat ANYTHING prepared by the Amish, Mennonites and whomever else's culture is so heavily food-oriented, without a single qualm. Had the best rootbeer of my life from a farm in Penn. which only advertised w/ a tiny sign heading up the lane to the farm: Fresh, homeade rootbeer. The left-hand turn was a total no-brainer, and what a winner.

              1. re: mamachef

                Personally, I buy NOTHING from the Amish. They use pesticides and don't necessarily treat their animals humanely.

                1. re: linguafood

                  I'm always suspicious that the people dressed in Amish-looking attire might just be "English" people doing it as a marketing gag!

                  1. re: jzerocsk

                    Nah, the ones we got here are the real deal.

                    1. re: linguafood

                      How do you know? Serious question, I really do avoid the Amish booth because it seems like such a perfect gimmick.

                      1. re: jzerocsk

                        Because they speak that strange take on German, is why.

                        I avoid their booths for the above reasons, also, most of the stuff they're selling is sugary crap/pastries I am not interested in.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          They speak a strange version of Swiss German -- most of the Amish came from Canton Berne in the mid-19th century. I remember my great-grandmothers (both sides) who were both 1st generation Swiss-American speaking with the Amish in our community -- not every word got through but they more than understood each other. After taking German (Hochdeutsch) lessons as an adult, I could pick up some key words when visiting with my Amish customers, but couldn't really follow the conversation with much success.

                          The "Pennsylvania Dutch" are not Dutch at all -- but Deutsch -- from the Swiss German they speak.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Yah, I always thought it was funny when people thought that Dutch meant they're from the Netherlands. I can sometimes pick out a word or two, but the rest is gibberish to me.

                            1. re: linguafood

                              other people heard them say that they were deutsch...and it got warped somewhere along the way, although my great-grans and their friends referred to it as 'talking dutch', too -- even though their parents had come from Switzerland.

                              (and yes, when I was a little girl, I thought we were of Dutch heritage!)

                          2. re: linguafood

                            That is my experience as well - I was at Reading Terminal Market with my mother last spring, and as soon as I mentioned my skepticism about the "Amish-ness" of the vendors, a pair of teenage girls walked by speaking their German dialect.

                      2. re: jzerocsk

                        I guess I wouldn't be sure either, but I own a market stand so I spend a lot of time with the Amish stand holders. Another market recently opened in our area that advertises itself as being entirely Amish-owned. Though the stand holders do appear to be authentically Amish, it seems like a silly gimmick to me as well. Some make delicious food, and others not so much. Just like the rest of us.

                        1. re: FrauMetzger

                          Not-delicious food, that's what tipped me off...I bought a whoopie pie and a shoofly pie from them. The shoofly pie was dry-bottom and neither was all that good...and then I became suspicious!

                      3. re: linguafood

                        For a past job, I visited Amish and Mennonite farmers (including inside the houses) at a rate of at least one per week, more often then not it was two or three. I grew up with them as neighbors and my father and other family members regularly did business within the community.

                        In general, the animals were tended to at a level that most farmers and foodie consumers would not find acceptable.

                        At least in my area of PA, chemical use (pesticides and fertilizers) is very common.

                        As far as cleanliness goes, I saw spotless houses as well as dirty houses, just like the general population.

                        The Amish in my area of PA do shop at surplus outlets, produce auctions and Aldi's (they seem to love Aldi's) and resell produce door to door and at local farmer's markets. I have personally witnessed this.

                        They seem to be doing a good business in raw milks and cheeses and I have yet to hear any negative press.

                      4. re: mamachef

                        You're right, mama. It does sound a bit "quaint" when I put it that way! Our township has it's own health department that works with the state and USDA in inspecting our market.

                        Also, if you love homemade root beer and find yourself in southeastern pennsylvania, you have to stop by. Though I can't abide root beer myself, there's a stand here that carries some that everyone else says is fantastic. The gentleman introduces himself as Grandpa Jake, but we all call him Crazy Jake. Sweet guy and great products, but just a little off!

                    2. If it's a good-sized market, then the vendors have to meet all the FL state requirements for food production -- including inspections. Florida is a little strange about its farmers' markets.

                      Here's a list maintained by the Dept of Ag -- http://www.florida-agriculture.com/co... with contact information.

                      But I'm with the rest -- I figure you're at least as safe with small producers, if not more so -- there's less motivation for pure profit, and with fewer employees and smaller production, fewer opportunities for contamination. (It's easier to keep a kitchen clean that operates for several hours a day with 2-3 employees than an industrial production line that runs 24/7 with 75 employees across three shifts....just a smaller number of gremlins introduced to the environment!)

                      1. Have these friends ever eaten at your home? WHY!?! They don't know a single thing about it and I'm certain it has never undergone a government inspection. They're taking their lives in their hands doing that sort of thing!

                        Oh, but they know you so they assume, without any sort of evidence whatsoever, that it's safe to eat. It's a logical fallacy. Most people probably do all sorts of unsafe things in the kitchen every day and think nothing of it because they don't actually get sick.

                        In all likelihood these products are produced to a higher standard than you'd make at home for yourself or friends because they're actually concerned that someone would hold them liable.

                        1. There are some things I would be wary about - for example, I wouldn't buy something like home canned fish, and I don't eat unrefrigerated sushi, and I avoid cut fresh fruit and a lot of the freshly made fruit drinks, as those are more risky for things like hepatitis or contaminated water.

                          I do, however, do most of my fresh grocery shopping at the local traditional market, and that includes eggs, seafood, pork, chicken, tofu and things like dried mushrooms. It did take me about two years before I could bring myself to buy unrefrigerated raw chicken, but then I realized that it's incredibly fresh, and I can directly see the conditions under which it is slaughtered and processed, sometimes while I wait.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                            Now, the items you mentioned? I totally get it.......I've eaten the home-canned fish, but my MIL canned it so no worries.

                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                              Freshly made fruit drinks... so lemonade is out of the question? I guess it makes a certain degree of sense, especially if it's children with their dirty, filthy, horrible little child hands. But there's no way I'm going to avoid a nice glass of agua fresca.

                              1. re: belgand

                                "dirty, filthy, horrible little child hands"

                                you make children sound like vermin.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  I think belgand was just being funny..

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    They are.

                                    More to the point is that they aren't known for their high level of cleanliness and attention to food safety guidelines, yet people rarely think anything of purchasing something from a child selling on the street.

                                    Most of these issues are really more about perception and unfounded psychological attitudes about "trustworthiness" than anything that actually has a legitimate bearing on food safety.

                              2. I am a producer for a farmer's market in VA. I work from an inspected commercial kitchen, and have an annual review with the Virginia Dept of Agriculture. As part of the inspection, they review my process, and take a sample of my products for analysis (looking for foreign particles, acceptable bacteria levels, etc). I worry all the time about making people sick. All the time. As a side note, producers are not required (in most states) to work from an inspected space to produce breads, cakes, candy, etc. My products are dairy heavy, and require me to work from an inspected space.

                                If you have questions about inspections, etc, you should ask your producer. My latest inspection is on file with the market, and I keep a copy with me. People ask me all the time, some discreetly, some directly, about whether I am inspected. It took a lot of work to get inspected and approved, and I am happy to share that information.

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: jeanmarieok

                                  That is GREAT information. Thank you for sharing it with us.

                                  1. re: mamachef

                                    I forgot one thing - I have been inspected by Dept of Agriculture staff while at the market, too. Unscheduled, random inspections. She checked the temperature of my cold items, inspected my coolers, watched me hand out samples, checked the temp of the water in my portable hand sinks, etc. I think most states have that same kind of oversight. If you have any questions at all about your market, you should just ask.

                                    1. re: jeanmarieok

                                      The beauty of living where I do is that I don't have to harbor those kinds of fears. I wish you could see our FM's here. I wish everyone could. Their minds would be set to rest, unless they are the kind whose minds will never be set to rest by anything that isn't processed, frozen, dessicated or otherwise tainted by the absolutely 100% sterile and perfect conditions present in every single processing plant in the world, what w/ all their high standards. :) Some folk need to check the FDA's "allowable levels" of taint, e.g. feces, rat hair, etc.....would change a few minds, methinks. Considering that I'm pretty goshdarn sure that my kitchen and the industrial kitchen I use contain virtually none of these blights.

                                          1. re: mamachef

                                            Lucky you! You guys are 15 -20 years ahead of the east coast, for sure!

                                            1. re: jeanmarieok

                                              Maybe in some ways (okay, definitely foodwise and in most arenas, politically) but remember, we wear Birkenstocks out here and consider it fashion-forward. :)

                                        1. re: mamachef

                                          Actually, an acquaintance who grew up in a farming family intormed me that lots of critters and bugs are chopped up and killed and mixed into grains during the harvesting process. Then they shoveled malathion into the stored grains to kill off live insects... YECH.

                                          1. re: mcf

                                            Ya know, it's just not right when there's no bug parts and malathion in one's food. I know I crave both almost daily. :)

                                            1. re: mamachef

                                              I know, RIGHT? ;-) I'm just glad I stopped eating grains before I knew that.

                                    2. re: jeanmarieok

                                      As a VA resident and frequent buyer/consumer of FM goods, this is good info. Thank you!

                                      In response to OP's question, a resounding "NO."

                                    3. I don't think my approach is very rational at all: I have no problem buying cheeses, eggs, breads, etc., but am very nervous about trying someone's home-canned jam or sauce. If it's made in a commercial kitchen, fine, but when I don't know what the market rules are, I skip the canned goods. How strange is that?

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: Isolda

                                        I don't know if it's strange, but it certainly runs counter to all evidence about food processing facilities, the paucity of inspections and lack of adherence to standards.

                                        1. re: Isolda

                                          I don't think that's weird. For example, at one of the markets here, they sell some Amish canned butternut squash puree. There are no approved recipes for butternut squash puree. If someone can't follow a basic rule like "this cannot be safely canned" then who knows what other rules they are breaking.

                                          Fruits, vegetables, baked goods, chocolate - I'll buy them all at farmers markets. But cannned goods? No way.

                                          1. re: mtoo

                                            it's real easy to solve -- ask them (discretely, please) to see a copy of their inspection reports. Ask them about regulations and inspections.

                                            Ask the market coordinators what the requirements are for vendors.

                                            I'm guessing that if they're selling publicly at a market, they're regulated by some agency somewhere.

                                            1. re: mtoo

                                              Wouldn't the pumpkin canning recipes all apply to other winter squash?

                                                  1. re: jzerocsk

                                                    But that applies specifically to home canning (and I see the logic therein).

                                                    There are, however, a LOT of Amish companies that operate full commercial canning operations all over the company.

                                                    As above...ask them.

                                          2. Nervous? Hell, I go out of my way to find such products. Isn't that what being a 'hound is all about?

                                            In a way, I trust such small producers more. They have to deal directly with those who consume their food.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: MGZ

                                              Right on MGZ. What's to say aunt Alice's kitchen was sanitary before she made that side dish for Thanksgiving. I'd trust someone selling at a market before that coworker at a pot luck dinner any day but then I'd eat that too.

                                            2. My idiot brother in law won't eat my homemade jam because he once read an article somewhere about some newfangled thing called botulism. He only trusts Kraft. I personally couldn't care less - I don't have to give him any of my precious stash.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Nyleve

                                                *Sigh*- just proves that no good deed goes unpunished.

                                              2. I would much sooner trust Farmer's Market food over supermarket food. Take some time to get to know your local market vendors. I look for stalls with signs telling the name and address of their farm. I avoid stalls that look like they've just taken the produce aisle at the grocery store and brought it outside. Talk to the farmers. They are people close to the land and close to the food. They care about what they are producing and they feed it to their families. It is a comment on our too-urban, too-far-from-our-food-sources society that we think to worry about these things.