Whether items that are baked or grown to sell at local farmers’ markets or items shipped in to the grocery stores, there are rules that will apply for all food products sold to enure there is food safety.
CANADA: Farmers’ markets and grocery stores are subject to the same scrutiny, health official says
Food safety experts say there’s no clear winner in food safety between farmers’ markets and grocery stores, with both types of operations subject to rigorous health and safety inspections.
Jim Chan, manager of food safety for Toronto Public Health, said food safety comes down to who’s running the show, not the type of operation they run.
“I won’t say that the risk level in all farmers’ markets is higher than other food premises. You cannot say that,” Chan said. “It’s all depending on the person who is operating that particular site.”
Municipal health inspectors are in charge of inspecting all food premises, including grocery stores and markets.
Permanent operations like grocery stores and restaurants are subject to provincial food premises regulations under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
In 2006, the province announced that farmers’ markets that had 50 per cent of its vendors farmers selling their own products would be exempt from that set of regulations, along with special events like the Taste of the Danforth, because of their temporary nature.
Market organizers are still required to inform municipal health units of their opening, who then inspect to ensure food safety standards are being met by each vendor.
“We would apply all food safety requirements as we usually enforce during inspection, except that we would look at them as not a fixed type of establishment,” Chan said.
The difference is that market vendors are not required to have things like plumbing or mechanical refrigeration that permanent operations would have, but proper food handling like handwashing stations and temperature control are still required.
Grocery stores undergo a minimum of three mandatory inspections a year, while farmers’ markets are typically inspected at the start of each season and at the midway point, plus any follow-up visits to ensure compliance, Chan said.