Poor Shoppers Exposed to More Tainted Produce

<"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">Food safety has been an issue of growing concern in this country and, now, researchers have found that food safety concerns are even more pronounced in disadvantaged neighborhoods, said Science Daily.

Mold, yeast, and other bacteria levels found on fresh produce apparently vary based on the income level of the areas in which the produce is sold, explained Science Daily. The researchers looked these levels on identical products sold in six Philadelphia neighborhoods, choosing three neighborhoods with the highest poverty levels, said Science Daily. In the poorer areas, consumers generally are limited to small markets with limited produce options.

The team found that ready-to-eat salads and strawberries sold in stores in poorer areas tested with much higher levels of microorganisms, yeasts, and molds than the same products in other areas. Cucumbers tested with higher yeast counts and mold; watermelon tested with higher bacteria levels, said Science Daily.

“Food deteriorates when there is microbial growth,” said study co-author Jennifer Quinlan, a professor of nutrition and biology at Drexel University, quoted Science Daily. “The bacterial count is used to determine the quality of the produce and it was poorer quality, closer to being spoiled. Three of the things that had a higher bacteria count—strawberries, ready-to-go salad and fresh-cut watermelon—have been associated with food-borne illnesses,” Quinlan added. The study appears online and in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

According to Quinlan, when access to good produce is limited, people don’t eat as many fruits and vegetables, noting that smaller stores and poorer neighborhoods might not be able to always handle foods in the safest ways, said Science Daily. “The food may be of poorer quality to begin with; then it may be transported to the stores and not be refrigerated properly,” said Quinlan. “Large supermarkets have entire units focused on food safety, refrigeration, sanitation. While a small facility with only one or two people may not have the resources,” Quinlan said, quoted Science Daily.

Bacteria that cause food spoilage, though not as dangerous as pathogens that cause food borne illness outbreaks, should be avoided. “One thing consumers can look for is that fresh-cut produce be refrigerated at the point of sale,” said Shelley Feist, executive director of Partnership for Food Safety Education, reported Science Daily. “When they get fresh produce home, it’s important to clean it thoroughly. Whole fresh produce should be rinsed under running tap water just before eating and produce should be kept separate from meat, poultry, raw eggs and fish to avoid cross-contamination.”

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