December 06, 2015

Tricks of the Trade of Produce Sellers at the Mercados in Cuenca Ecuador

Do we really know what we’re getting when we shop at the local Mercados in Cuenca Ecuador? Have you ever wondered how the vendors keep all their produce from going bad? Do they give it away to the less fortunate? Do they reduce it? Do they throw it out? Or, do they just dip/spray them in preserving chemicals?

Recently we have learned from a reliable local source that some of the vendors spray and or dip their produce in a chemical solution so it will not go bad. That way, it can sit on the table for days and continue to look pretty as if it were freshly picked from the garden. The problem is which vendors are spraying/dipping and which ones are not?

After consecutive weeks of being misled so many times about the cleanliness of the food and getting sick, we had to quit buying a lot of the produce. It’s either that or keep risking our health. So sad.

Don't get us wrong, there is plenty of fresh clean food sold at the Mercados and there is some that has been chemically tampered with to keep it looking as fresh as if it was just picked. That's the food that will make you sick. We have gotten the same bloating feeling from some of the bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc, etc...the same food at the regular grocery store does not make us feel bloated and crampy.

Bloating & Cramping

We knew something wasn’t right about some of the food we were buying at the Feria Libre Mercado of Cuenca Ecuador, because it would give us a heavy bloating feeling in our intestines and bleached out stool; and it wasn’t just one or two of us in the family, it happened with anyone who happened to ingest that particular fruit or vegetable. 


One of the fruits we knew right away that was giving us stomach problems was the banana. We all had the same bloating, heavy, crampy feeling after eating bananas from various Mercado vendors. This is not healthy!!  The solution for us was to stop buying bananas at the mercado.

We never know if we’re getting fresh food or not because vendors are not exactly up-front when they want to sell their produce. So, what we had to do was a simple technique a person does when they have a food allergy. We had to write down all the food we ate in a day and slowly eliminate food items from our meals that we knew for sure were giving us the bloating and such. Sometimes we had to eat the same food twice and get the bloaty feeling again just to make sure it was that food.

Another problem is, we didn't always go to the same vendors and trying to remember the vendor who gave you the food with chemicals was difficult to remember at best as Feria Libre is huge!! We were in a pickle of sorts and have almost just quit going to the Mercado...it has gotten that bad.

In the latter stages, tired of getting bloated and nauseated, we would look the vendor straight in the eye and ask, “Have these been dipped in chemicals?”.  Sometimes the ladies will say, “Not these ones” or “Not today they haven’t”, while lowering their heads and becoming shifty eyed.  Sometimes we would buy the produce and low and behold we get bloating and cramping once again.

In the last year or so, going to the Mercado has been more trouble than it is worth and that is why we have almost stopped going. We haven’t been in two months and we really don’t miss it. Our grocery bill is just about the same because we buy at the regular grocery stores what’s in season. If it is not in season we either reduce purchase or don’t buy it at all.

BTW, we already figured out they were putting something on the chicken (it looks rubbery and fake) and other meats because otherwise they would rot…and obviously some of it has rotted according to the smells in that particular area of the Mercados.

Is It Raw Honey or Is It Something Else?

When I eat refined sugar, even just a tablespoon it goes directly to my feet and that’s how I knew that after a few months of eating honey bought at the Mercado, it was not raw honey; I immediately quit using it and found a new source for getting raw honey.

It was a few months later that I was having a conversation with my next door neighbor about the “so called” raw honey I was buying at the Mercado and she told me that they mix the honey with corn syrup. This only confirmed my suspicions!

Corn syrup is extremely unhealthy in the long run and chemicals sprayed on foods after they have been picked to preserve their life is making people sick!

Bottom line: Sadly, knowing what we know now, it keeps us from buying other products from the Mercado, and to even recommend the Mercado like we used to. If you have a favorite vendor(s) that you always go to and you know for sure they aren't tampering with the food with a post-chemical that's great!



Organic Produce or Not?

A kind reader wrote in sounding as if she was gently correcting us to say that the produce at the mercado is not organic. This made us think that our previous articles perhaps made it sound as if we were saying that the produce at the mercados is organic.

In fact we have always said that it is a toss up, some of it is and some of it is not.  It's just that lately we seem to have run into a lot more of the non organic produce than ever before. And we think you should know, that non organic and potentially chemically laden produce seems to be on the rise at Feria Libre and we have the symptoms to prove it, at least to ourselves.

It’s really sad, however on the upside we have learned to accept the reality that not all is as it appears in Cuenca Ecuador.  Wink!

If you liked this article, you might like these ones about the food in Cuenca too.

We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

1 comment:

  1. Good article. I was also buying raw honey at mercado and it was 10 de Agosto. It was 1.50 for small clear flat plastic container. I kept buying it for awhile now and put it in my smoothies instead of sugar. Then I went to Health and supplement store and they have same size for $4 something ! I asked them why their is so much more then the same size from mercado, I showed to them as I just bought it at mercado again. He told me that the one from Mercado is not real honey !!!! Hmm, was he right? It kind of has a smell, nice one, like a cherimoya fruit. But now, I think I am going to buy honey for 7 something a jar PB size at Super Maxi. Can you tell me a secret? Where do you get your real honey now? Thanks!

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