Members of the Swift Current Farmers Market met with representatives from Public Health and the City of Swift Current on Jan. 30 to discuss a comprehensive agenda, including Foodsafe - a trademarked food handling certification relative to the sale of fresh, frozen and prepared food at this year’s Farmers Market.
“We feel that having your Foodsafe certificate makes the public feel a lot safer about how its food is prepared,” said Bep Hamer, manager of the Swift Current Farmers Market. “That we are registered, and we’re not just making stuff in our kitchen and throwing it on the table to sell. I think it’s really important that we are all on a level playing field.”
Market Square attracted between 1,000 and 2,000 people every Saturday in 2012, its second year of operation. Hamer asked for Public Health representation at the meeting to address the topic of safe food handling for the benefit of existing and future Farmers Market members and the community. The topic will be one of the items on the agenda at the Market's Annual General Meeting scheduled for Feb. 14 at 1 p.m. at the Swift Current Mall Miracle Room.
Market Square visionary and City of Swift Current CAO Susan Motkaluk said, “We’ve been working hard to make an even better market downtown this year. The great thing is we’ve had such an impact on the community that I don’t think they would ever let us stop now.
“But with that, too, comes a lot of expectations, and I know with this discussion around health and food it’s great, because we want to continue setting the bar really high. We don’t ever want to tarnish the image or the trust we have built.”
Karlene Panko, Public Health Inspector with the Cypress Health Region, noted that a food-borne illness is 100 per cent preventable, so obtaining a Foodsafe certificate and having contact with Public Health is the best way for vendors to ensure that produce and food they sell at the Farmers Market has been handled or prepared in compliance with legislative standards.
“You never want to be the cause of a food-borne illness,” Panko said, “as it can really hurt somebody, not only physically but emotionally and financially too. It can sometimes be really debilitating, prevent them from working.
“As a public health inspector with the Cypress Health region, we’re very much involved and really like to be involved in the Farmers Market.
“Obviously foods are a potential source of infection for people. We strongly recommend that everyone who prepares food for the public gets a Foodsafe certificate. Food safety is common sense, but it’s not common knowledge. People make really common mistakes when it comes to food safety and that’s where food-borne illness ends up coming from.”
The Saskatchewan government publishes Farmers Market Guidelines that define the requirements of food vendors and outline the types of foods that may or may not be sold. Those guidelines are included with the Application for Vendor to Sell Food at Farmers Market form provided by the City of Swift Current.
“Basically they define what a farmers market is from our perspective, what the potential hazards are, so we would consider a potentially hazardous food to be anything that can support the growth of bacteria: foods that have a high level of protein, lots of nutrients, high moisture, so this includes items such as meat, dairy, cheese, poultry and fish,” said Panko.
“Recently we have implemented an application form for applying to sell your foods at the Farmers Market. That application form goes through our department and is reviewed. This year what we’re thinking of doing is a bit of a permitting system, so we’ll review your application and give you an Inspection Certificate that you can hang in public view to indicate that you’ve been approved to sell your food at the Farmers Market.”
Panko also outlined the basic food labeling expectations for prepared foods.
“You are recommended to do some labeling as well. It’s the Canada Food Inspection Agency that has requirements, but they recommend that you have the name of the food; how much is in the package; the ingredients, because that’s really important for allergies; where it was produced, so your name, address and phone number; and the durable life of it, so if it’s perishable how long do you expect it to last – i.e., a Best Before date.”
Foods that are not permitted to be sold at Farmers Markets include but are not limited to: cracked eggs, farm-slaughtered meat and poultry, and milk or milk products that are raw or have been home pasteurized.
“Any meats, frozen or fresh, that are prepared for the Farmers Market need to be from a licensed abattoir facility.”
Fish vendors must be licensed by the Saskatchewan government, and home canning is also restricted.
“For example, if you’re home preserving anything, there’s a high risk of botulism, so it is restricted to pickles and relish,” explained Panko. “Also you can do your jams and jellies; due to the really high sugar content in those, it doesn’t really support the growth of bacteria.”
With the exception of glass canning jars that have been sterilized and fitted with new lids, containers such as those made from plastic, cardboard or styrofoam cannot be reused.
“There’s a lot of information in the Foodsafe course," explained Panko. "It’s basically from farm to fork, about handling food, serving the food, cleaning up in your facilities. It’s a full day course, and runs from about 8:15 to 5 p.m. At the end of the day there’s an exam, so it’s a multiple-choice test of 55 questions where you need 75 per cent to pass the exam. If you pass, we would send you a Foodsafe certificate in the mail, but if you are unsuccessful, you are allowed one re-write.
“Having a Foodsafe certificate also allows you meet the Saskatchewan legislative requirements for any of our licensed public eating establishments as well. So if you’re ever interested in working in a public eating establishment, which includes any volunteering with food, it’s really handy to have.”
The Foodsafe certificate does not expire, but Panko recommends a rewrite every five years or so.
“We recommend a review every five years, as regulations, standards and the course information can change.”
The next Foodsafe course offered by the Cypress Health Region will be April 10, and the cost is $50. Ad hoc courses can also be arranged for groups of 20 or more people, and some evening courses have also been scheduled over two evenings. For more information, contact the Public Health Inspector On Call at 778-5280. For more information on Public Health and Food Safety, visit www.cypresshealth.ca/phi, scroll down and click on Food Safety.
Cypress Health Region Public Health FOODSAFE™ Courses for 2013
April 10: Conf. Rooms 1 & 2, Cypress Reg. Hospital, 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.
April 13: Abbey, location to be arranged, 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m..
May 8: Maple Creek United Church, 301 Maple Street, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
May 21 & 28: Conf. Rooms 1 & 2, Cypress Reg. Hospital, 6 to 10 p.m. both evenings.
May 29: Conf. Rooms 1 & 2, Cypress Reg. Hospital, 8:15 to 5 p.m.
Sept. 17 & 18: Miller College of the Bible, Admin. Bldg., Pambrun, 6:30 to 10 p.m. both evenings.
Sept. 17 & 24: Conf. Rooms 1 & 2, Cypress Regional Hosp., 6 to 10 p.m. both evenings.
Sept. 25: Conf. Rooms 1 & 2, 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Nov. 7: Shaunavon Lutheran Church, Shaunavon, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Nov. 12: Conf. Rooms 1 & 2, Cypress Reg. Hospital, 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.