Farmers' Market FAQ
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Farmers' Market FAQ

Pick up a Temporary Food Market Guidelines and Application Form?

The guidelines are available at your local health unit, from your Temporary Food Market organizer, or at the BC Association of Farmers’ Market website. Application to participate in your local market is completed through the Market Manager for each market location.

What if I want to sell a food that is on the high-risk list?

You should speak with your market manager and the local EHO and fill out an application for a Food Premises Permit - fees may apply depending on how often you plan to attend the market. This will allow you to prepare your food in a permitted kitchen and sell it to the public.

Why should high risk foods be prepared in a permitted kitchen?

High risk foods need some special care and consideration. Depending on the type of food product, proper heating, cooling and refrigeration protocols must be followed. Home kitchens may lack the necessary equipment and space for these procedures.

Why do some foods get tested for pH and Aw?

Foods with a low (acidic) pH and a limited amount of moisture (Water Activity or ‘Aw’) will prevent the growth and development of food-borne pathogens (like botulism or salmonella). In order to make sure the food you are selling has a low enough pH and/or Aw, the Market Manager or the local EHO may request you have this food tested.

What kinds of foods require pH and AW testing?

Canned products are among the most commonly tested for pH, particularly if less acidic foods. This is important because the botulism grows well in canned products with no oxygen. The pH of the food should be 4.6 or lower to prevent this deadly botulism toxin from accumulating.

Baked goods are almost never tested because of their ingedients

(Pickles are a good example of food that should be tested for pH levels. In one recent case, pickles with a pH level of more than 4.6 were discovered at a local market; because the testing process was followed, they were removed from the market before any potential exposure to botulism could occur.)

How often does foodborne illness really occur?

Most cases of foodborne illness go unreported because the ill person usually does not see a doctor, report it to the EHO, or submit a stool specimen. 

For every one case that is reported, it is predicted that anywhere from ten to one hundred cases go unreported. Health Canada also estimates that every year 11 to 13 million Canadians become ill with foodborne illness.

An outbreak in 2007 in Prince George is a prime example of how under-reported food borne illnesses are – EHOs followed up with about 70 people who had fallen ill, but only five of them saw a doctor about it.

Has anyone ever become ill from foods sold at a Temporary Food Market?

Yes. We are aware of a few major outbreaks from foods distributed at Temporary Food Markets, including a case where 13 people became ill with E. coli after consuming unpasteurized Gouda cheese from an Edmonton Temporary Food Market in 2003. 

In 1994, 82 cases of Salmonella were traced back to unpasteurized soft cheese from a Temporary Food Market in Ontario. And in 2000, eight became ill with E. coli after eating fruit samples handed out at a Temporary Food Market in Colorado.

What makes a potluck dinner so different from a public event?

These private events are restricted to a family, or members of an organization or club and their invited guests. Some of the main differences are that generally:

  • These events are smaller functions
  • People know each other
  • They are short in duration
  • People assume the food is home-made and not subject to the requirements of permitted food establishments

Are these Temporary Food Market Guidelines only being implemented in Northern BC?

No. These guidelines were developed by BCCDC and the Health Authorities in cooperation with the BC Association of Temporary Food Markets. The guidelines have been implemented across the province and are followed by all Temporary Food Markets that belong to the BC Association of Farmers Markets.

What help can an EHO offer to a Temporary Food Market Vendor?

A certain amount of paperwork is necessary to complete the application process and your market manager will assist you with the application.

The local EHO will be available to the Market Managers should they have any questions about the relative risk of your product the proposed recipes and processes, labeling, and, when necessary, assist in delivering samples to an accredited lab.

The lab will notify you of the sample test results and whether they meet the necessary standards. If you have any questions or concerns, the EHO is here to work with you to determine the safest way to prepare your foods.

Can I give out free samples to the public at the Temporary Food Market?

Yes, but make sure to discuss this with the Market manager first to ensure it is done safely and meets the Market's standards.