Offering samples is a great way to promote your products. The 2014 Safe Food Sampling law (Minnesota Statute 28A.151) allows farmers market vendors to offer samples. Although you don’t need a food license, you must follow Minnesota food code requirements for Special Event Food Stands (4626.1855, B-O and Q and R).
Videos on how to comply with the Safe Food Sampling law
Included are the what, where and how product samples can be offered as well as key resources to comply with the Special Event Food Stand requirements of the law. (Time: 13:44)
Learn about food handling practices to keep food samples safe, based on 2014 Minnesota Safe Food Sampling law. (Time: 13:43)
Learn about cleaning and sanitizing requirements under the 2014 Minnesota Safe Food Sampling law. (Time: 11:23)
Learn about time and temperature control of food as well as requirements for location and construction of sampling stands. (Time: 9:40)
Safe food sampling tips
Health and hygiene is the most important link to prevent a foodborne illness.
- You must not prepare or serve samples if you’re ill with vomiting or diarrhea until at least 72 hours after symptoms end. Stay home if you are ill. Train volunteers to report illness.
- Wear clean clothing. Wear a scarf, hat, visor or hair restraint when preparing or serving food.
- Wash hands often and before handling food.
- If preparing food, no fingernail polish is allowed.
- Jewelry can harbor bacteria and can transfer to food. Don’t wear rings or watches if preparing or serving food. A plain solid band is allowed.
- Use gloves, scoops or utensils to serve food samples.
- Check hands for cuts and wounds. Cover cuts with a leak-proof bandage and wear gloves while preparing and serving food samples.
- Keep a list of workers. Record hours worked and contact information in case there is a foodborne illness outbreak.
Handwashing is one of the easiest, most effective ways to prevent foodborne illness. Set-up your handwashing station first before unpacking supplies or preparing food.
Supplies you’ll need for a handwashing station:
- A 5 to 15 gallon insulated, thermos type container with warm water.
- Water must be 70 to 110 degrees F. This temperature needs to be maintained during the entire time you’re sampling or doing your food demonstration. Verify water temperature with a food thermometer throughout the day.
- Water needs to freely flow from the spigot or spout so there is a steady stream while washing hands. A turn style spout or flip-up type works well. Most thermoses can be retrofitted with this type of spout.
- Water needs to be potable (suitable for drinking) from a municipal water supply or a well that is routinely tested (at least annually) for bacteria and nitrates and must meet safe drinking water and well standards.
- Paper towels on a heavy stand.
- Container to catch wastewater – same size or larger than the water dispenser to prevent spillover of contaminated water.
- Trash container for paper towels – covered is best.
- Table or cart to hold the handwashing supplies – elevate water container at least 2 feet off the ground making it accessible to wash hands.
Handwashing station location and details
- Locate the handwashing station within the stall/booth. Locate it so it is accessible but water does not splash on food or food contact surfaces during the handwashing process.
- Maintain enough water pressure in the container to adequately wash your hands. You need one gallon of water remaining in the container at all times – this is 2 inches above the faucet, spigot or spout.
- Bring extra water to fill container. If you run out of water or below the 2 inches, you need to stop providing samples.
Wash your hands often:
- Before preparing or serving samples.
- After handling raw foods.
- After coughing or blowing your nose.
- After handling garbage.
- After using the toilet (wash hands at hand sink and again when you return to your booth).
- After you handle money.
- After eating or drinking.
- Any time they become contaminated.
How to wash hands
- Wet hands with running warm water.
- Wash hands with lots of soap. Soap creates a slippery surface for the “germs” to slide off.
- Scrub soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse under running water.
- Dry hands using paper towels.
- Turn spigot or faucet off with a paper towel to prevent recontamination of hands.
- Gloves, wet-wipes, “waterless” hand sanitizers, or washing hands in the dishwater buckets or sanitizer are not substitutes for handwashing.
Wash all produce under running water before peeling, cutting or serving.
- Wash using running, potable water and transport to market in clean covered containers to prepare on-site or wash on-site using water from the handwashing station. To prevent splashing of water from the hand wash wastewater bucket or container, have a separate container to catch produce wastewater.
- Use a produce brush on firm-skinned produce like carrots or apples.
- Use clean, sanitized colanders, cutting boards, peelers, knives, etc. to prepare samples.
The water you use for handwashing, washing fruits and vegetables, and cleaning and sanitizing must be potable, which means it is drinkable water. It can come from:
- A municipal (public) water supply.
- A private well if the well water is tested once a year for bacteria and nitrates and has met safe drinking water and well water standards.
- You can transport your water with:
- Portable containers if they are food-grade, clean, and of sufficient capacity for your sampling needs.
- Food-grade hose with an appropriate backflow device to prevent backflow of contaminated water into the clean water source. Hose must be flushed and sanitized before use.
Think through your equipment needs: all utensils, tools, surfaces and appliances needed to transport, serve, hold and store, prepare, package or offer food samples. Equipment must be clean, in good repair, smooth and cleanable – no chips or cracks – made of food-grade materials and nonabsorbent.
When dirty equipment and utensils are used, microorganisms can transfer to food. Bring extra supplies in case of contamination or if dropped on the ground.
Two options for using clean equipment and utensils:
Option 1: Bring enough clean utensils and equipment for preparation and serving so you never reuse a ‘dirty’ item during that day’s sampling event.
Option 2: Wash utensils and equipment at the market for reuse during your sampling or food demonstration event. You will need:
- Three containers, buckets, bins or tubs (need to be food-grade which means designed to hold food or items that touch food). Containers need to be large enough so the largest item you wash is fully immersed in the container.
- You will need potable warm water to fill each bucket or container.
- Label the first bucket as your ‘wash’ bucket then fill it with hot water (110 F) and dishwashing detergent.
- Label the second bucket ‘rinse’ and fill it with clean warm water.
- Label the third bucket ‘sanitize’ and fill it with warm water (75 F – follow the manufacturer's directions on the label of the sanitizer).
- Test strips are required to verify the sanitizer concentration is correct (chlorine bleach: 50 ppm; Iodine: 12.5 – 25 ppm; quaternary ammonium: 200 – 400 ppm per label instructions).
- Chlorine bleach recipe: Use 1 tablespoon regular bleach or 2.5 teaspoons ultra bleach per 1 gallon of water. You must use unscented bleach that’s labeled with an EPA Reg. No. (EPA registration number) and instructions for use on food contact surfaces.
- You will need a place and a dish rack to air dry dishes. No towel drying allowed.
- Dishwashing is a four-step process. Wash and sanitize dishes and utensils in this order:
- Wash in warm soapy water.
- Rinse in clear water.
- Sanitize items for 10 seconds for bleach or 30 seconds for quats (quaternary ammonium).
- Air dry.
- Bring an extra thermos with hot water. You must change the water in wash, rinse and sanitize containers at least every two hours, or more depending on use. You will also need a bucket for the wastewater.
- After each use, wash equipment and utensils with hot, soapy water, then rinse and sanitize.
- Every 4 hours, wash, rinse and sanitize preparation and serving utensils, and surfaces in constant use.
- You’ll need additional buckets to wipe up spills and clean preparation areas like tables.
- Prepare both a cleaning bucket with detergent and a sanitizer bucket.
- Label buckets for ‘cleaning’ and ‘sanitizing’.
- Keep wiping cloths in the buckets when not in use.
- Label and designate a separate sanitizer bucket if prepping raw meat or poultry products.
When you run out of water for dishes, you need to stop sampling.
Use proper sanitizing solutions
Sanitizer concentration is very important. Too much can be toxic and too little will not be effective in killing pathogens that can make people sick.
- Use approved unscented sanitizers: the label must have an EPA registration number and instructions for use on food contact surfaces. Follow label directions for use.
- After the sampling session, clean and sanitize thermos, nozzle or spigot, coolers and totes used for water or food.
- Wash with soapy water, inside and out.
- Rinse with clean water.
- To sanitize use one tablespoon of unscented regular chlorine bleach per 2 gallons of water.
- Do NOT rinse.
- Air dry.
Use a food thermometer
Eating undercooked foods can result in a serious foodborne illness outbreak.
- Bring and use a calibrated food thermometer to check cold holding, cooking, and hot holding food temperatures.
- The following foods need to reach an internal temperature of:
- Whole meats (chops, steaks, roasts): 145 F, plus 3-minute rest/stand time for safety.
- Ground meats: 160 F.
- Poultry (ground or whole): 165 F.
- Soup, stews, egg dishes, stuffing, casseroles, reheated foods: 165 F.
Keep hot foods hot
If hot foods are held below 140 F for longer than four hours, microorganisms will grow rapidly.
- Keep hot foods at 140 F or higher.
- Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of hot foods.
- Do not mix a fresh batch of a food item with an existing item.
- To keep hot food hot, use hot plates, electric skillets, etc.
- Home crock pots are not allowed to hold hot foods. Every time you lift the cover it takes 20 minutes to recover the heat lost.
- Any leftover food at the end of the day must be discarded.
Keep cold foods cold
If cold foods are held above 40 F for longer than four hours, microorganisms grow rapidly.
- Keep cold foods at 40 F or lower. Verify with a food thermometer.
- Monitor the temperature of food at least every four hours to ensure it is at 40 F or colder. If cold food is above 40 F, discard the food.
- Coolers should be durable, insulated and cleanable with tight-fitting covers. Fill coolers with ice packs, (not ice bags) or dry ice to keep cold foods at 40 F or below. NOTE: Mechanical refrigeration is required for food held longer than four hours. Plug-in coolers are an option.
- Coolers – use separate coolers:
- One for raw products.
- One for ready-to-eat products.
- One with ice for consumption if serving a beverage that you will add ice to, like a smoothie. (Ice needs to be from a commercial source; no ice from your home refrigerator.) If you dispense ice, be sure to use a scoop.
- Place an appliance thermometer in each cooler. These thermometers are available at variety and discount stores. The cooler should keep food at 40 F or lower.
- Ice may be used to cool beverages in water-tight containers. Tops of the containers (such as pop can lids) must be above the ice. Melting ice must drain into a catch bucket.
Location and construction of booth
Your booth should protect from overhead and environmental contamination.
Think about the safe flow of food from clean to dirty. Protect raw from ready-to-eat foods. Protect from customer contamination.
A canopy or other overhead protection is required to protect food and surfaces from contamination.
Acceptable flooring surfaces are vinyl, sealed wood, concrete or asphalt. If on grass, dirt or gravel – cover with a non-absorbent mat, rubber or sealed plywood to control contamination from mud or dust.
Food preparation and cooking areas are protected from the public by a food shield or distance separation.
Store food off the ground at least 6 inches or in hard-sided totes or coolers with covers. Set them on pallets, tables, shelving, etc.
Store food and equipment away from chemicals (like sanitizers, sunscreen, insect spray, soap, etc).
If there is adverse weather conditions, stop food sampling and/or demonstrations.
Remember your stand and vehicle are subject to inspection (even if you are exempt from licensing). Some jurisdictions charge an inspection fee. Some delegated agencies have stricter ordinances. Look up the Minnesota licensing jurisdiction on the Minnesota Department of Health website.
You need a plan to deal with liquid and solid waste collected during sampling and food demonstration.
Provide waste containers with plastic liners in and outside your booth.
Empty them often.
Provide a garbage container for used sampling containers or utensils for customers to use.
At the end of the day, place garbage and paper waste in a refuse container with a tight fitting lid.
Collect and dump wastewater.
Dump in an approved waste water collection system.
Wastewater cannot be poured on the ground, in creeks, rivers or down a street or storm drains. Doing so can contaminate water sources.
Checklist for safe food sampling at farmers markets
This checklist outlines the requirements of the 2014 Safe Food Sampling law (MN Statute 28A.151). Vendors and food demonstrators preparing and serving food samples must follow the ‘special event food stand’ regulations (4626.1855). No food license is required for product sampling per MN Statute 28A.151.
Within food stand.
Insulated food-grade thermos: minimum 5-gallons with water at 70-110 degrees F.
Free-flowing water container with turn or flip spigot.
Off the ground at least 2 feet.
Maintain water level 2 inches above spigot.
Soap, nail brush, paper towels, trash container.
Bucket to collect wastewater.
Food grade: clean and nonabsorbent.
In good repair and working properly.
Cutting boards: smooth, no deep cuts.
Single-service items for samples: cups, utensils.
Clean colanders, cutting boards, peelers, knives, etc. to prepare samples.
Overhead protection (tent or canopy).
Flooring if on grass, gravel or dirt.
Food and food preparation areas protected from contamination.
Dry chemical fire extinguisher, if cooking.
Food temperature control
Hot foods held at 140 F or above.
Cold foods held at 40 F or below.
Thermometer calibrated with a range of 0 to 220 F.
Hot food samples cooked to required temperatures onsite.
Temperature control during transport.
Water source options
Municipal (public) water supply.
Private well tested annually for bacteria and nitrates. Meets safe drinking water and well water standards.
Permanent potable water source at market accessed via food grade hose or portable food-grade containers.
Durable, insulated, with a tight-fitting lid and drainage spout.
Ice packs or dry ice to keep cold food at 40 F or below for 4 hours or less. If greater than 4 hours, mechanical refrigeration is required.
Appliance thermometer in each cooler.
Cooler for raw animal products.
Cooler for beverages: if ice is used, drain so the top of the container is above the ice.
Separate cooler for ice, if serving ice in beverages.
Produce washing station
Thermos with clean drinkable water.
Separate catch bucket for produce wastewater.
All produce washed under running water before peeling, cutting or serving.
Firm-skinned produce scrubbed with a produce brush.
Bucket with soapy water and cloth to wipe up spills.
Bucket with sanitizer (verify with test strips so bleach concentration is 50-100 ppm or Quats per manufacturer’s directions). If using bleach, check the label for unscented, EPA registered, with directions for use on the food contact surface.
Wiping cloths stored in sanitizer bucket when not in use.
Separate raw and cooked foods.
Food, utensils or equipment stored 6 inches off the ground and in a sanitary manner until needed.
Separate chemicals from food and equipment.
Option 1: Bring extra utensils and equipment and don’t re-use a dirty item.
Option 2: Wash for re-use at market 3 buckets or tubs:
Wash in soapy warm water.
Rinse in clean water.
Sanitize in warm water with proper sanitizer concentration (1 Tbsp. regular bleach per 1 gallon of water; use test strips to verify concentration is 50 ppm).
Dish rack to air dry dishes.
Extra thermos with hot water.
Bucket to collect dirty dishwater.
Main ingredient must be the product of your farm or garden.
Prepared onsite at the market or cottage food from a home kitchen or in a licensed food establishment and transported to market.
3 ounces or less.
Money and food handled separately.
Tongs, spoons, spatulas, gloves used to dispense food.
Sauces, condiments are self-contained squeeze bottles, sealed packs or in single-service containers with lids.
Protected from customer contamination. No self–service.
Sign identifying the name of vendor and demonstrator.
Sign describing the sample, i.e. Zucchini bread with nuts.
Discard leftover food samples at end of the market.
Garbage container with a plastic liner in the booth.
Waste container to collect sample containers and/or utensils.
Wastewater stored in a container labeled ‘wastewater only.'
Wastewater and garbage disposed into approved collection systems.
Personal health and hygiene
Hair restraint or hat.
No eating, drinking, smoking or chewing gum or tobacco in the booth.
No symptoms of diarrhea or vomiting within the past 24 hours.
Cover cuts on hands and arms with a bandage and wear gloves.
Wash hands before and after food preparation.
2021 Minnesota Statutes. MN Statute 28A.15128A.151 Farmers' market or community event; food product sampling and demonstration.
Minnesota Administrative Rules. 4626.1855 Special Event Food Stands.
Guidelines for Safe Handling of Drinking Water at Golf Courses, Minnesota Department of Health, December 2010.
Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association. Safe food sampling at farmers markets worksheet
Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association. Handwashing Station for Minnesota Farmers’ Markets
Reviewed in 2022