Food experts have launched a review of farmers’ markets in Scotland to ensure consumers who shop there are offered the same protection as those who buy produce at shops and supermarkets.


The Scottish Food Advisory Committee is to examine food safety at farmers’ markets – which sell fresh meat, dairy products, fresh fruit, vegetables and unpasteurised fruit juices – following concerns that they may not be as well regulated as other retail outlets.


Farmers markets are a relatively new phenomenon in Scotland and to date no formal food safety guidance has been issued to farmers or environmental health officers. The independent Committee – which advises the Food Standards Agency on food-related issues in Scotland – is therefore ideally placed to recommend on any action they feel is needed.


Although details of the review have yet to be finalised, the Committee is likely to:



  • examine existing food safety and food hygiene legislation relevant to the open-air sale of meat and other fresh food produce;
     
  • ask councils to provide information on the full extent of farmers’ markets in Scotland;
     
  • take evidence from both supporters of farmers’ markets and those who feel current controls do not go far enough.

Sir John Arbuthnott, Chairman of the Scottish Food Advisory Committee, said:


“Farmers’ markets have recently become increasingly popular in Scotland. The first organised market for many decades was held just two years ago and now a number of towns and cities host them on a regular basis.


“The Scottish Food Advisory Committee recognises the opportunities these markets provide for farmers and the local economic benefits they bring. However, it is important that consumers who buy produce at farmers’ markets can do so in the knowledge that the food is as safe as that on sale elsewhere.


“Markets must comply with general food hygiene and temperature control regulations but there are a number of grey areas. There have also been suggestions that standards required of other retailers are higher than for market traders.


“The Committee will be seeking to clarify the situation. If we find that there is a need to protect consumers by tightening up procedures we will not hesitate in advising the Food Standards Agency and Scottish Ministers to do so.”


NOTES FOR NEWS EDITORS



  1. The first farmers’ market took place in Scotland two years ago. Many areas now run them – mostly on a monthly basis, though more frequently around Christmas.
     
  2. Supervision of market activity falls to local authorities. Individual traders can apply for a licence or the market as a whole can apply.
     
  3. The Scottish Food Advisory Committee is an independent body set up to advise the Food Standards Agency and Scottish Ministers on food-related issues affecting Scotland. It is committed to working in an open and accessible way and can publish its advice, as well as making it available to the Agency and Ministers.
     
  4. The Committee held its fifth public meeting today in Aberdeen and agreed to review how farmers’ markets fit in to the current food safety and food hygiene regulatory framework. Details of how the review will be carried out will now be finalised and it is expected that the Committee will report in late summer/early autumn.
     
  5. A copy of the report on farmers’ markets considered by the Committee is available by contacting the number below.

For further information, media should contact John Booth, Media & Communications Officer, on 01224 285120. Out of hours contact: 07699 782183.