Public health research has found that populations of lower socioeconomic status have less access to healthier foods, which are associated with a decreased prevalence of chronic diseases. Such foods include fresh produce, low-fat dairy products and lean meat. This decreased access is due to the prevalence in poorer communities of small stores that primarily sell foods with a long shelf-life, as opposed to the fresher, more perishable foods that are essential for a high-quality diet.
A 2010 paper by Drexel University researchers published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, “Microbial Quality of Food Available to Populations of Differing Socioeconomic Status,” examines whether the fresh foods that are available for sale in lower socioeconomic communities are more likely to be in poorer condition.
The study’s findings include:
- Strawberries, ready-to-eat salads, and cucumbers from retailers in low socioeconomic communities were found to be of significantly lower microbial quality (more bacteria, yeast and mold) than those of retailers in high socioeconomic communities.
- There was no significant difference in the microbial quality of broccoli, watermelons, orange juice, and milk between retailers in high and low socioeconomic communities.
- There was also no significant difference in microbial quality of raw poultry or beef between retailers in high and low socioeconomic communities.
The researchers state that these results suggest that food retailers in low socioeconomic communities may lack the resources needed to preserve perishable food effectively. The poorer condition of the food may impact the “appeal and potential safety of the produce.”
Tags: poverty, safety