Guidelines for Samplings at Farmers' Markets & Temporary Events
Providing samples at farmers’ market stands and other food events allows consumers to try a product before purchasing or be educated on how to utilize a food product during preparation and cooking at home. However, unsafe sampling methods can adulterate or contaminate food and can result in foodborne illness. The Chester County Health Department (“CCHD”) strongly recommends preparing and prepackaging samples at a licensed facility, as this will allow vendors to easily meet most of the recommendations below:
- A license may not be needed to sample small “bite-sized” portions of food offered for promotional or educational purposes. However, all food sampling and/or cooking demonstrations must be pre-approved by the CCHD. Vendors must be in compliance with the current edition of the FDA Model Food Code (“Food Code”) and ensure the guidelines below are followed.
- A handwashing station shall be made available at each booth where samples are prepared and/or handled on-site (except where prepackaged). Bathroom sinks may not be used as food handler handwashing sinks. A handwashing station consists of hot water supplied by a spigot, hand soap, paper towels, and a container to collect the waste water.
All waste water must be disposed of in a sanitary sewage system so as not to create a health hazard or nuisance. Waste water may not be discarded in a storm water drain or on the ground.
- No products made in an unlicensed home kitchen are allowed. All processed food items must be made in a licensed facility. All foods must come from approved sources that comply with the current Food Code.
- Produce intended for sampling shall first be washed in water that is either from a public water system or nonpublic water system approved by the CCHD (or other regulatory agency) to remove dirt, soil, and any other contaminants.
- Foods shall be placed in protected locations during transport to the event, storage, preparation, display and service.
- Food employees may not contact exposed, ready-to-eat food with their bare hands, and shall use suitable utensils such as deli tissue, spatulas, tongs, single-use gloves or dispensing equipment.
- Use tooth picks, wax paper, paper sampling cups, or disposable utensils to distribute samples. An important aspect is to prevent customers’ hands or fingers from touching the samples or contaminating the food.
- Food-contact equipment (such as knives and cutting boards) shall be washed, rinsed, sanitized and air dried. If disposable utensils and cutting surfaces are to be utilized, then these shall be discarded within four hours of first use with foods that require time/temperature control for safety.
- Foods that require time/temperature control for safety shall be maintained ≥135°F or ≤41°F at all times unless time is used as a public health control and is documented at the facility (marking foods to indicate four hours have passed; foods must be used or discarded within four hours from the point of time when the food is removed from temperature control).
- Cooked foods must be cooked fully to their required final cooking temperatures. Thermometers must be used to verify all temperatures (cooking, storage, etc.).
- Food samples are limited to 1 ounce or less “bite-sized” portions; beverages and liquid food samples are limited to 2 ounces or less.
- Cooking Demonstrations: Menus, list of ingredients, preparation description and equipment specifications will need to be reviewed with CCHD for approval. Some restrictions may apply. All guidelines listed above must be followed.
Vendors offering samples in Chester County must display the Health Department Sampling Notice (or other CCHD approved notice) indicating that samples are not regulated by the CCHD pursuant to the Food Code (3-601.12). Samples may not be offered if notice is not provided in public view. CCHD reserves the right to review sampling procedures to ensure they are accomplished in a safe and sanitary manner. If an immediate health threat is observed, the CCHD has the authority to require the vendor to cease operations and corrective actions be submitted/approved prior to resuming sampling operations. If sampling operations exceed what the CCHD views as sampling and/or if repeated violations are observed, the CCHD reserves the right to require licensure and/or prohibit sampling.
For questions or more information, call 610-344-5938.