GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - With the number of farmers markets increasing in Michigan and throughout the country, food safety inspectors are working harder to make sure consumers get safe products when they shop.
Abbey Harding is a food safety inspector for the Michigan Department of Agriculture. Part of her job is to inspect farmers markets, like the one in Grand Rapids, to make sure venders are complying with current regulations.
Each farmers market has dozens of vendors and there are more than 250 farmers markets in Michigan; more than double the number there were ten years ago.
One thing an inspector looks at is the labeling. Vendors need to specify where their products are grown. Typically with packaged goods, vendors must list weights, ingredients, and whether the product requires refrigeration.
"If it's coming from a licensed source, we'd check with license control," Abbey Harding said.
Michigan vendors need to be licensed and if they process food, they may be subjected to inspection at their facility.
Inspectors also check on temperature control during their inspections. Hot items need to be stored in temperatures of at least 135 degrees; cold items at 41 degrees or lower.
Inspectors look at baked and canned goods to see if they were produced in commercial kitchens.
"Today no one seems to be handling ready to eat products, so gloves wouldn't be required," Harding said.
Surprisingly, inspectors have no control over the safety and quality of the number one item sold at farmers markets: the produce.
"Produce is produce as long as it's whole and intact. We do not require any temperature requirements for it; it's OK to be sitting out," Harding said.
If you like shopping at your local farmers market, experts say the best thing you can do to ensure quality products is getting to know the vendors.
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