Food safety at the fair

Stay healthy during fair season by practicing good food safety.

The fair can be a really fun, rewarding experience but it can also include a variety of places where dangerous germs lurk. One of these places is the animal exhibits. Animals can carry harmful pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella, that can cause foodborne illness, especially for susceptible members of the community like infants, toddlers, the elderly and all those with weakened immune systems.

These bacteria can get on your hands when handling or petting animals and even by touching other things in the barn. They can then get into your body if you eat food without washing your hands. Although many fairs supply hand sanitizer outside exhibits, the best way to make sure your hands are clean is to wash them with soap and warm running water for a minimum of 20 seconds.  

Bacteria can be transferred outside barns and onto games and rides (and even your car on the ride home) by people who haven’t washed their hands, and on shoes and strollers. The following recommendations can help prevent the spread of germs at the fair this year:

  • Avoid touching animals and other surfaces that might be contaminated
  • Avoid putting hands/fingers in your mouth, eating, applying lip balm, biting nails while in animal exhibits
  • Wash hands after leaving animal barns, after riding rides or playing games, and again before eating food
  • Clean bottoms of shoes or stroller wheels if possible
  • Don’t rely on hand sanitizer to clean hands or objects

Don’t let a foodborne illness ruin the rest of your summer vacation. Enjoy the county fair but do it safely. If you have further questions about safety at the fair, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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