Practices and Regulations

Food safety practices are based on risk which depends on the product that is being sold. The list below summarizes some of the food safety practices and general regulation by product categories that are typically sold at farmers’ markets. This list has been compiled for reference only. Assessments and/or inspections by a public health inspector should be carried out to ensure compliance with the Food Premises Regulation.

Locate the public health unit that your market falls under.

1. Produce (fruit and vegetables)

2. Baked goods, fudge and candy

  • Low-risk, non-hazardous baked goods including bread, cinnamon buns and buns (no dairy or cheese fillings), cakes (icing sugar frosting only – no whipped cream, milk or cream cheese toppings), cookies, muffins, squares, fruit pies and pastry, fudge and hard candy may be prepared in the vendor’s home and sold at all exempt farmers’ markets.
  • High-risk or potentially hazardous baked goods including cream pies, buns (with dairy or cheese fillings) items with whipped cream fillings or toppings, meat pies etc. must be properly handled, stored, prepared and transported in order to sold on the market. They must be kept cold – less than 4°C (40°F) in a refrigerator, cooler with ice packs or kept frozen in a freezer with an accurate indicating thermometer. Do not over pack! Cool air must be able to circulate to keep food safe.
  • Limit accessibility to products by customers and insects by either wrapping them individually in cling film, covering them with mesh tenting or putting them inside a display case or behind a “sneeze guard”.
  • Handle baked goods with clean utensils to prevent direct hand contact with food. Napkins or bakery papers can be used to handle dry baked goods.

3. Cider, kombucha tea and fruit juice

  • These beverages are not required to be pasteurized; however, they can become contaminated and potentially hazardous during handling, processing and transportation.
  • Pasteurization helps get rid of bacteria, viruses or parasites if the beverage has not been processed or handled properly.
  • If the beverage is unpasteurized, keep it refrigerated and ensure it has a best before date.
  • Advise customers that unpasteurized cider, Kombucha Tea and juices are not recommended for children, pregnant women, older adults and those with a weakened immune system.
  • The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has a Cider Workbook

4. Eggs

  • Ontario has an egg marketing board (The Egg Farmers of Ontario) controls egg production and promotes egg consumption.
  • A farmer can have up to 99 laying hens without having to purchase quota. Farmers can sell eggs from these hens at market as long as they have been graded.
  • Eggs must be graded at an approved egg grading station before being offered for sale. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has requirements for Egg Grading, Distribution, Sales and Processing in Ontario and the Egg Farmers of Ontario has some General Regulations
  • Eggs are a potentially hazardous food that need to be kept cold – less than 4°C (40°F) in a refrigerator or cooler with ice packs and with an accurate indicating thermometer.

5. Jam, jelly, preserves, fruit butter, vinegar, salad dressing, sauces and pickles

  • High sugar (jam and jelly) and high acid (pickles) canned food preserved in clean airtight, vacuum-sealed (Mason-style) containers that are heat processed in a pressure canner.
  • Low acid canned foods such as sauces, salsas and vegetables cannot be sold at markets unless they are mechanically refrigerated to ensure a consistent temperature is maintained.
  • Jars are to be individually labelled with the product name, list of ingredients and the vendor’s name and address.
  • Public Health Ontario’s Home Canning guide provides food safety and practical information.

6. Honey

  • All containers of honey sold in Ontario must be labeled. The specific requirements are based on the size of the container as set out in Ontario Regulation 119/11.

7. Maple syrup

  • All containers of maple syrup sold in Ontario must be labeled. The specific requirements are set out in Ontario Regulation 119/11.

8. Meat, poultry, fish, cheese and dairy

  • The specific requirements for fish are set out in the Fish Inspection Act.
  • Meat, poultry and fish must bear the appropriate stamps, tag or label from the provincially or federally inspected facility where they were slaughtered and/or inspected. Vendors must be able to provide receipts to verify the meat, poultry and fish were obtained from an approved source.
  • Meat, poultry and fish are considered high-risk or potentially hazardous foods and need to be kept cold – less than 4°C (40°F) in a refrigerator, cooler with ice packs or freezer with an accurate indicating thermometer.
  • Ontario has The Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO) marketing board that controls chicken production and promotes chicken consumption. The CFO has programs for Ontario farmers that want to raise and sell chickens directly to consumers. Farmers can register for the Family Food Program to raise a small flock of up to 300 birds for farmgate sales or the Artisanal Chicken Program to raise between 600 and 3,000 chickens annually for selected target markets such as farmers’ markets.
  • Ontario has the Dairy Farmers of Ontario marketing board that controls milk/dairy production and promotes milk production. They have a Dairy Processing Handbook that contains information for vendors considering making dairy products.
  • The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has a Dairy Food Safety Program.
  • Ontario has the Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board. Their general regulations provide for a farmer to have up to 100 fowl without quota.

9. Prepared food for immediate consumption or take-out

  • As the requirements are based on risk which is determined by menu/product mix it is recommended that the public health inspector inspect and approve the kitchen and the list of products being offered to ensure consistency with the food safety requirements.
  • High risk or potentially hazardous foods (hamburgers, hot dogs, spring rolls, waffles, ice cream etc.) must be prepared in an inspected kitchen.
  • All water must be from an approved potable supply.
  • To prepare food safely you should have the following equipment:
    1. Cooking or “stem” probe thermometers.
    2. Accurate indicating thermometers for fridge, etc.
    3. Bleach or other sanitizing agent.
    4. Clean wiping cloths.
    5. Clean tongs and utensils.
    6. Separate hand washing sink with running warm water, soap and paper towels.
  • All food preparation areas should be separated from serving areas. These areas should have smooth, non-absorbent surfaces and be easy to clean.
  • Food should be handled with utensils (tongs, spoons, ladles etc.) to prevent direct hand contact with the food.
  • Aprons or uniforms and head gear that confines the hair should be worn by those directly handling non-pre-packaged foods.
  • Only single service (disposable) utensils and dishes should be used to serve food to customers. Utensils, china/porcelain plates and cups may be used if washed on site or in a commercial kitchen. A two or three compartment sink with hot and cold running water must be used to wash, rinse and sanitize the utensils, plates and cups.
  • All high risk or potentially hazardous foods must be transported, stored and maintained at required temperatures. Indicating thermometers must be provided in all cold holding units.
  • All high-risk or potentially hazardous foods that require cooking must be fully cooked to the minimum internal required temperature. Probe thermometers must be available to test internal food temperatures.
  • All high risk or potentially hazardous foods should be cooled as quickly as possible from 60ºC to 4ºC within 4 hours. You may use ice baths, freezers and shallow pans to do this.
  • Reheat all high risk or potentially hazardous foods quickly to an internal temperature of 74ºC or 165°F. Do not use steam tables to reheat foods.
  • Transport hot and cold foods quickly from place to place. Use clean thermal insulated containers with cold or hot packs or refrigerated trucks to maintain temperatures.
  • The Ontario Ministry of Health has produced a food safety document specifically for food handlers: Food Safety: A Guide for Ontario’s Food Handlers.

10. Wine, cider and fruit wine

  • Wineries that wish to sell at farmers’ markets must have a valid Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) Manufacturer’s license, operate an authorized on-site winery retail store and produce one of the following: VQA wine, fruit wine (including cider made from 100% Ontario apples), honey wine and maple wine. Refer to the specific requirements on the Sale of Eligible Wine at Farmers’ Markets set out by the AGCO.
  • Wine, cider and fruit wine may be sampled during the market’s operating hours, even if that seems a bit early, provided they are only served to persons 19 years of age and older. The specific requirements on product sampling at farmers’ markets are set out in the AGCO Sampling Guidelines (refer to page 10) set out by the AGCO.