Rat lungworm has been found on all Hawaiian islands and so it is critical that farmers markets – as key access points to fresh local food – are aware and have a plan in place to avoid its spread. Preventing rat lungworm is all about education and taking proper precautions at all levels of your market. Review these tips for help.
- Get Educated. If you yourself donʻt know about rat lung worm and how it is transmitted, itʻs difficult to share that info with others or know what to look for. You can find educational resources at http://pharmacy.uhh.hawaii.edu/rat-lungworm-overview
- Post Signage at the Market. Rat lungworm infections are most commonly prevented by thoroughly washing/drying, freezing, or cooking produce. Posting “Please Wash Your Produce” signs around the market is a good reminder to attendees to follow proper food safety at home.
- Share Educational Info with Vendors. Provide a small flyer or educational pamphlet to vendors to make sure theyʻre aware of proper washing protocols for their produce to best prepare it for market. The best prevention happens at the farm, before the produce reaches your market. Ask them to share their prevention measures with you.
- Carefully Monitor High-Risk Crops. Keep a close eye on vendors that sell items that are typically moist and eaten raw (ie. lettuce). You may even want to create a policy for vendors selling these crops, requiring a sign on their booth informing customers to thoroughly wash their produce before consuming as a reminder.
- Check Your Insurance Coverage. Especially in high-risk areas, like Hawaii island, you should speak to your insurance provider and ensure that youʻll be covered if any incident happens. This includes having Directors & Officers coverage for your Board or governing group in addition to general liability.
- Check Your Vendorsʻ Insurance Coverage. Check in to get updated insurance certificates for your vendors each year – donʻt let this small admin task fall behind.
- Snails/Slugs = Suspension. Itʻs your responsibility to take the safety of your customers seriously. Should you find snails or slugs present on any vendorʻs produce, you should shut their booth down and only allow them to return once they have proper protocols in place.
- Document Your Efforts. Create a log documenting all of the tasks you have taken (like those above) to ensure safety at your market. In the worst case scenario that an outbreak does occur, youʻll want to be able to provide information on your preventative measures.
In the end, youʻll want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you’ve done all that you can to prevent the spread of rat lungworm at your farmers market. Small actions can add up, keeping your market, your vendors, and most importantly – your customers – safe.
Find more tip sheets and resources on food safety and other topics on our Farmers Market Manager Resources page!