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Safe food sampling tips for farmers markets vendors

Suzanne Driessen

The 2014 Safe Food Sampling law (Minnesota Statute 28A.151) allows vendors and food demonstrators to prepare and offer food samples at Farmers’ Markets (3 or more persons who assemble at a defined location that is open to the public for the purpose of selling directly to the consumer the products of a farm or garden occupied and cultivated by the person selling the product.)

You do not need a food license for product sampling but you must follow the Minnesota food code requirements for “Special Event Food Stand” (4626.1855, B-O and Q and R).

Foodborne illness outbreaks can happen anywhere and can affect a large number of people. Follow these safe food handling tips to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.


The purpose of offering samples is to promote products of the farm or garden. Spices can now be added which couldn’t legally be done before. Keep it simple! People want to sample whole fresh food.

Samples must be:

Personal health and hygiene

Health and hygiene is the most important link to prevent a foodborne illness.

Keep hands clean

Handwashing is one of the easiest, most effective ways to prevent foodborne illness. Set-up handwashing station first before unpacking supplies or preparing food.

When to wash hands

Wash hands often: Before preparing or serving samples; after handling raw foods; after coughing or blowing your nose; after handling garbage; after using the toilet (wash hands at hand sink and again when you return to your booth); after you handle money, after eating or drinking and any time they become contaminated.

How to wash hands


The water you use for handwashing, washing fruits and vegetables, and cleaning and sanitizing must be ‘potable’. Potable means it is drinkable water. It can come from:

Clean produce

Wash all produce under running water before peeling, cutting or serving.

Use clean equipment/utensils

Think through your equipment needs—all utensils, tools, surfaces, appliances needed to transport, serve, hold/ store, prepare, package or needed to offer food samples. Equipment must be clean, in good repair, smooth cleanable—no chips or cracks, food-grade and nonabsorbent. When dirty equipment and utensils are used, microorganisms can transfer to food. Bring extra supplies in case of contamination or if dropped on the ground.

You have two options for using clean equipment/utensils:

Use proper sanitizing solutions

Sanitizer concentration is very important. Too much can be toxic and too little will not be effective in killing pathogens that can make people sick.

Use a food thermometer

Eating undercooked foods can result in a serious foodborne illness outbreak.

Product Temperature
Whole meats (chops, steaks, roasts) 145°F, plus 3 minute rest/stand time for safety
Ground meats 160°F
Poultry, ground or whole 165°F
Soup, stews, egg dishes, stuffing, casseroles, reheated foods 165°F
Source: USDA, Revised Cooking Temperature, May 2011

Keep hot foods hot

If hot foods are held below 140°F for longer than 4 hours, microorganisms will grow rapidly.

Keep cold foods cold

If cold foods are held above 40°F for longer than 4 hours, microorganisms grow rapidly.

Location and construction of booth

Design your booth with food safety in mind. The design should protect from overhead and environmental contamination.

Method of liquid and solid disposal

You need a plan to deal with liquid and solid waste collected during sampling and/or food demonstration.

References: M.S. 28A.151, Special event food stands 4626.1855; Special Event Food Stand. March 2014. Minnesota Department of Health.

Reviewed by Kathy Zeman, Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association; Sarah Leach and Denise Schumacher, Registered Sanitarians, Minnesota Department of Health, Valerie Gamble, Registered Sanitarian, MDA, Jim Schloegl, Environmental Health Specialist, City of St. Cloud

For more information contact Suzanne Driessen,, 320-203-6057.


June 2014, Revised July 2016

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