New state guidelines will allow vendors at Kentucky farmers’ markets and Kentucky Farm Bureau roadside markets to offer free food samples without having to get a food service permit.

The guidelines will take effect Jan. 1. They were established by the Kentucky Department for Public Health in cooperation with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Farmers’ Market Association to address sampling issues voiced by market vendors.

“Offering samples is the best way to promote any food product,” Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer said. “That’s especially true of foods offered for sale at farmers’ markets, which are judged more on taste than on appearance. These new guidelines will help producers promote their Kentucky Proud products while minimizing the risk of food-borne illness to customers.”

The guidelines require vendors who offer samples to undergo a KDA training course. Those who will offer samples of raw fruits and vegetables are also required to complete the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) education course available through local Extension offices.

The first sampling training will be offered at the KFMA’s annual conference Jan. 6 in Lexington. Producers may complete GAP training Jan. 8 at the Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference.

The 2008-2009 Kentucky Farmers’ Market Manual will cover the guidelines in detail and give producers tips on easy ways to meet the requirements. The manual will be offered for the first time at the conference. Copies will be mailed to all markets across the state and will be available on the KDA Web site on the Farmers’ Market page.

For more information, go to the KFMA’s Web site at www.kentuckyfarmersmarket.org and click on News. Questions about the policy should be directed to the Kentucky Food Safety Branch at (502) 564-7181. Questions about the required training sessions should be directed to Janet Eaton, the KDA’s farmers’ market coordinator, at (502) 564-4983.