Food Safety Tips for Fairs and Festivals

With the festival and fair season approaching, it’s important to be mindful of food safety. There are many factors that can lead to foodborne illness from the temporary food vendors at these events, and you should know what they are.

Foodborne illnesses increase during the hot summer months, making it even more important to follow food safety steps. There are several reasons that foodborne illnesses increase in summer.

For example, eating outdoors in warm weather presents a food safety challenge. Bacteria in food multiply faster at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, so summer heat makes the basics of food safety especially important. And if the outdoor temperature is above 90 °F, food can become dangerous after only one hour.

Also, the usual safety controls that a kitchen provides, like monitoring of food temperatures, refrigeration, workers trained in food safety and washing facilities, may not be available when cooking and dining at fairs and festivals.

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Furthermore, temporary food vendors are often part-time cooks and may not have a complete knowledge of proper food safety practices or procedures and may never have taken a food safety training course.

What to 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.

Left-Overs: Food Safe Storage Practices

If bringing food from home, what are proper food handling and storage practices?
If you bring food to a fair or festival from home, be sure to keep food handling and storage times in mind. Don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day (90°F or higher), reduce this time to one hour. Be sure to put perishable items in a cooler or insulated bag.

Wash Hands or Use Hand Sanitizer Wipes

  • 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.

Report an Illness

Anytime you think you may have gotten a foodborne illness, 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.

Now you’re on your way to a safe and healthy fair season!

State Fair Directory

State fairs, originally held to celebrate the harvest, have grown into enormously popular annual events. State fairs offer great, affordable dining and entertainment close to home.

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