An evaluation of British Columbia’s guideline for the sale of foods at temporary food markets in allowing the sale of potentially hazardous food
Background and the purpose: British Columbia’s Guideline for the Sale of Foods at Temporary Food Markets is a document that Environmental Health Officers’ (EHOs) and farmers’ market managers will have to consult with when determining what food products are allowed to be sold in farmers’ markets. This guideline plays a vital role because it indirectly influences EHOs’ and farmers’ market managers’ judgments and the public’s risk exposure to potentially hazardous foods (PHFs) in farmers’ markets. It is necessary to evaluate and compare BC’s guideline with other provinces’ to see where it sits in the spectrum with respect to its permissibility in allowing the sale of PHFs in farmers’ markets, perhaps contributing to the further revision or development of the farmers’ markets guideline or policy. Methods: An online Google Docs survey consisting of 20 questions was created to ask farmers’ market managers from British Columbia and other provinces in Canada whether their farmers’ markets allow the sale of the five food types: poultry, shell egg, sauerkraut, unpasteurized juice/cider and cheese and how these foods are handled and stored. Results: There were 56 farmers’ market managers who participated in this survey (46% from BC and 54% from outside BC). Chi-square results had p-values greater than 0.05 for all the five surveyed categories. Two-tail t test results had p-values less than 0.05 in the raw poultry and sauerkraut categories. Discussion: Although no association between the location of farmers’ markets in Canada and the sale of the five surveyed food categories, BC farmers’ market managers disallowed the sale of raw poultry and unpasteurized juice more often than markets outside BC whereas fewer BC farmers’ market managers disallowed the sale of eggs and cheese when compared to markets outside BC. A significant difference in the handling and storage practices of raw poultry and sauerkraut was identified between farmers’ market managers in BC and outside BC. Also, BC’s managers were shown to have safer food handling practices to raw poultry, sauerkraut and unpasteurized juice than managers from outside BC. Conclusion: The types of foods sold in BC and outside BC appeared similar as this survey found no differences between the five surveyed PHF categories allowed for sale. However, handling practices of these foods did vary, and that might be associated with guidelines, or with farmers’ market manager knowledge. Of concern, BC farmers’ market indicated that eggs and juices were sourced and made on farms. These two categories required more attention and food safety awareness from both EHOs and farmers’ market managers. Overall, the survey responses reaffirmed that review and approval for the sale of potentially hazardous food from EHOs and scrutiny from farmers’ markets managers must be in place to ensure public’s safety as well as minimizing public’s risk exposure to improperly handled PHF sold in farmers’ markets.