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Tips for staying safe and legal at farmers markets

As farmers markets continue to grow in popularity and visibility, they are attracting more producers with a wider variety of farm-fresh goods for sale.

Increased product diversity at more farmers markets is a great thing for shoppers seeking local foods, but it also means that more attention will be paid to keeping those consumers safe and healthy. As such, farmers market vendors in the state of Illinois have some new and updated regulations with which they need to be familiar, said Andy Larson, local foods & small farms educator for the University of Illinois Extension.

“Local food producers have a great reputation for providing consumers with fresh, tasty, wholesome products,” Larson said in a news release. “We should all work to keep that reputation by staying up to date on the guidelines that maximize safety and transparency for our customers.”

A program to help local food producers stay up to date is planned for 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the Blank Slate Room at the DeKalb County Community Outreach Building, 2500 N. Annie Glidden Road, DeKalb. Registration costs $5 and can be completed online at go.illinois.edu/farmersmarketregs.   

Participants should register by April 5 to guarantee a seat and materials.

Join extension educators including Larson, Marilyn Csernus (nutrition and wellness) and Grant McCarty (local foods and small farms), as well as the DeKalb County Health Department’s Greg Maurice (director of health protection) and Dawn Nance (food inspector), for a practical discussion of farmers market rules and regulations. Topics will include:

• The updated Cottage Food Law, including what prepared products can be legally sold at a farmers market

• The Illinois farmers markets food product sampling certification, including sanitation guidelines and how to get trained

• Transparency provisions for displaying origin of products being sold at farmers markets

• Requirements for safe transport and sanitary handling of  “potentially hazardous foods”

For information, call 815-732-2191.

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