An assessment of food safety handling practices at farmers' markets in Rhode Island using a smartphone application

Elizabeth G. Vandeputte, Lori F. Pivarnik, Joshua Scheinberg, Robson Machado, Catherine N. Cutter, Ingrid E. Lofgren

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The number of foodborne illness outbreaks increased in the United States from 2001 to 2010, and 17% of them were associated with produce. Higher risk, whole produce sold at farmers' markets presents unique challenges to food safety practices in regard to temperature controls, potable water, and exposure to contaminants. The purpose of this study was to use direct observations to identify unsafe food handling practices among vendors selling higher risk produce at Rhode Island farmers' markets. This study used, as a tool for data acquisition, a Smartphone application developed to allow concealed direct observations of actual vendors' practices at farmers' markets. Observations were made at fourteen (7 state and 7 private) farmers' markets to collect data on food handling practices of 26 vendors selling higher-risk produce. The mean observation time per vendor was 18.3 ± 5.8 minutes. Vendors' unsafe food handling practices included eating, talking on the phone and touching money, and then touching produce. Use of a Smartphone application was an effective data collection tool in assisting the observer in the recording of farmers' market vendor practices, without being detected. The results of this study will be used as guidance for education programs targeting farmers' market managers and vendors that promote best practices in regard to whole produce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)428-439
Number of pages12
JournalFood Protection Trends
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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