Heading to the fair? Read this first

A Colourful Ferris Wheel at Luna Park, SydneyIt’s all fun and game until someone gets food poisoning.

A big part of summer for many people is attending fairs, festivals and rodeos. There are always fun things to see and experience, including art work, music, games, rides and more. Recently, one of the biggest draws to these events is unique types of foods and drinks available.

Along with the increase in popularity of different foods available, cases of foodborne illness also increase during summer months and outbreaks are often linked to fairs and festivals. To help everyone safely enjoy their time out and about, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled some food safety tips.

For consumers:

What should you consider before buying food from a vendor?

  • Does the vendor have a clean/tidy workstation?
  • Does the vendor have a sink for employees to wash their hands?
  • Do the employees wear gloves or use tongs when handling food?
  • Does the vendor have refrigeration on site for raw ingredients or pre-cooked foods?
  • Has the vendor been inspected? Is a recent inspection report available? Requirements vary by state, but in general temporary and mobile vendors, like those at fairs and carnivals, should have a license to sell food and beverages in a particular state or county for a specific time period. You can check with the local health department to see if the vendors are licensed and if a food inspection has been completed.

Trying to save money and eat healthy?

The CDC recommends bringing your own food if you are trying to save money and calories. However, don’t forget to keep safe food storage practices in mind. Don’t let food sit out for more than two hours and on a hot day (90°F or higher), reduce this time to one hour. Also, be sure to put perishable items in a cooler or insulated bag.

What steps can you take to protect you and your family?

Wash your hands often:

  • Find out where hand washing stations are located.
  • Always wash your hands right after petting animals, touching the animal enclosure, and exiting animal areas — even if you did not touch an animal.
  • Always wash hands after using the restroom, after playing a game or going on a ride, before eating and drinking, before preparing food or drinks, after changing diapers, and after removing soiled clothes or shoes.
  • Bring hand sanitizers or disposable wipes in case there aren’t any places to wash your hands.
  • Wash your hands with soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds. Directions for washing hands can be found here.

Report illness:

Anytime you think you may have gotten a foodborne illness, the CDC says you should report it to your local health department, even if you have already recovered. The local public health department is an important part of the food safety system. Often, calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected. If a public health official contacts you to find out more about an illness you had, your help is important.

Food vendors, community organizations, and fair organizers:

Requirements differ by state, but in general temporary and mobile food vendors should apply for a food license with the fair’s state or county health department. Many community-based organizations set up booths to sell various foods at local festivals and fairs as well. Contact information for local and state health departments can be found here.

Fair organizers should try to include a person trained in food safety throughout the planning process, as well as have them present at the fair. The article states it’s best to limit the amount of food preparation preformed off-site, a practice known as cook-serve and to always follow the four basic food safety steps: CLEAN, SEPARATE, COOK, and CHILL.

For more information, click here.

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