New Food Sampling Policy

Ronda Stone of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry recently issued this new policy to help ensure the safety of food samples at farmers’ markets:

APRIL 13, 2016

This policy amends, updates and supersedes the previous policy “Sampling of Food Products at Farmers Markets” dated March 18, 2010.

The intent of this policy is to address the desire of food vendors to offer free samples of their product to potential customers at Farmers Markets. Although the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry does not license and regulate mobile food vendors selling ready-to-eat food, this policy is meant to address a non-commercial transaction while still offering some minimum sanitation practices that need to be followed. Food samples are limited to those food items approved for manufacturing and processing under a current DACF Home Food or Commercial Food Processing license.

Free samples of food items may be prepared and offered provided samples are prepared in a sanitary manner and the following conditions met:

  1. The vendor must provide potable water, detergent and some sort of sanitizer for washing, rinsing and sanitizing of all utensils and food prep surfaces (water and liquid detergent and a mixture of water and germicidal bleach at a solution of 200ppm). Alternatively, a vendor may bring extra utensils to have available in the event a utensil may become contaminated. Work surfaces can be wiped down with a 200ppm chlorine solution for markets not exceeding 4 hours.
  2. The vendor must provide potable water, soap and disposable hand towels for proper hand washing.
  3. Prepared samples must be displayed under some form of protective cover to prevent contamination; glass cake domes or covered trays.
  4. Single service disposable items for food handling must be provided to customers for self-service of samples; tooth picks, deli papers or disposable sample cups.
  5. Hot and cold holding of temperature controlled food samples must be controlled by time or temperature. Cold foods must be held at 41ºF or less and hot foods must be held at 135ºF or more. Temperature controlled food samples not held under these conditions must be discarded after 4 hours.

Markets wishing to allow non-vendor food preparation for demonstration purposes as a means to promote the use of food products available at the market may do so.  Foods prepared by the non-vendor may not be offered for sale, but samples may be provided. The market is encouraged to see that the food is prepared in a sanitary manner.

The Maine Department of Agriculture does not have the authority to license vendors for ready-to-eat food service of any kind. Vendors wishing to prepare ready-to-eat food should contact DHHS, Health Inspection Program (HIP) at 287-5671 to inquire about licensing.



Hand washing station