According to the health department, fresh produce does have the potential of causing foodborn illnesses if not grown, transported and stored properly. For example, many whole, uncut fruits and vegetables may be offered for sale at markets. However, once cut, many fruits and vegetables could be deemed potentially hazardous. All cut products should be stored below 41 degrees. The health department also encourages residents to wash any produce they purchase.
Other items often sold at produce markets are jams, jellies and apple butter. According to the health department, while products are not considered potentially hazardous, items must be labeled with the common name; name and address of processor; ingredient list with items in order from most to least; net weight; and major allergens listed. Those who plan to sell this type of item also must register with the health department prior to the date of sale.
Additional canned items, including salsa, pickled vegetables, sauces and dressings, are not permitted at farmers markets unless the products are from an approved food manufacturer. According to the health department, honey is permissible at produce stands as long as it has been registered with the WVDA.
Farm fresh eggs also are one of the many products found at farmers markets. All eggs sold must be stored at the market in a cooler or refrigerator capable of holding 41 degrees. Dairy products, including pasteurized cheese, can only be sold if the vendor has an approved Dairy Processing Plan; the product is pre-packaged; the product is kept at appropriate temperatures in coolers or freezers and the vendor must have a valid Food Establishment Permit. It is not permissible for raw milk to be sold in West Virginia.
According to the health department, those purchasing goods from produce stands should inquire information from the person who is selling items. The health department also encourages individuals to ask if products were grown in an area that flood waters covered — this is due to the fact that flood waters may carry bacteria that can enter into the produce and cause illnesses.
For more information on produce stands and farmers markets, contact the health department at 304-675-3050 or visit the Web site, www.wvdhhr.org/phs/food/index.asp.