WASHINGTON, July 23 (UPI) -- U.S. health officials say meat and produce sold at farmers markets is just as likely to be contaminated as that purchased in supermarkets.
News21, a University of Maryland journalism project, reported tests done by a Baltimore lab found salmonella in chicken being sold at a farmers market sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington. The producer is exempt from USDA inspection because he sells fewer than 20,000 chickens a year.
"From a food-safety point of view, there's no inherent reason why large production is, on balance, more dangerous than a small family farm," Bill Keene, a senior epidemiologist at the Oregon Public Health Division, told News21.
Contamination by salmonella or campylobacter is extremely common in chicken and illness can be avoided by handling it correctly and cooking it thoroughly. Experts say shoppers who go to farmers markets should be careful to avoid cross-contamination by tossing the meat and produce into the same bag, especially if chicken juices are leaking.