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Is There a Relationship between Farmers Markets and Food-Borne Illness?

New AAEA member research published in the AJAE

With the number of farmers markets in the United States increasing four-fold over the last 20 years, the authors of a new article in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (AJAE) ask whether there is a relationship between farmers markets and food-borne illness.

Marc F. Bellemare and Ngoc (Jenny) Nguyen from the University of Minnesota have a new article titled “Farmers Markets and Food-Borne Illness” published in the AJAE. Using state-level administrative data for the period 2004-2013, they find a positive relationship between the number of farmers markets per capita and the number of outbreaks and cases of food-borne illness per capita. Specifically, their findings appear largely driven by a positive relationship between farmers markets and outbreaks and cases of norovirus—the most common cause of gastro-enteritis, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, and kills over 500 individuals annually in the U.S.

Although correlation does not imply causation, Bellemare said that “on the basis of the precautionary principle, it might be best to take seriously the possibility that the relationship we identify might be causal, given how robust the positive correlation we found between farmers markets and food-borne illness has turned out to be in the data. This argues for studies looking at that relationship using primary data linking food-borne illness with where the consumers experiencing food-borne illness have been shopping.”

To set up an interview with Marc F. Bellemare or learn more about this recently published article in the AJAE, please contact Allison Scheetz in the AAEA Business Office.

ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 60 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes two journals, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices. To learn more, visit

Contact: Allison Scheetz
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