Poisonous Produce Sold to the Poor?

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Fresh vegetables and other healthy foods can often cost more than a bacon cheeseburger or other unhealthy foods, but even when lower-income households eat their vegetables, there's a chance they're doing more harm than good.

Some fruits and vegetables available in low-income neighborhoods are covered in more bacteria than those found in higher-income areas, according to recent research at Drexel University funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And those bacteria-laden foods could pose serious food safety problems.

“Researchers found nasty, poison-tainted produce was more likely to end up in poor areas of town,” noted the Consumerist.

Specifically, ready-to-eat salads and strawberries were found to have higher levels of microorganisms and mold and cucumbers had higher levels of mold in low-income areas.

Small stores selling produce in low-income areas may not have the resources, time or knowledge to ensure proper refrigeration and sanitation, according to the study, but it also suggests that the general public could stand to learn better food handling and storage practices as well.

These conditions don’t just affect food safety.  They could also make fresh fruits and vegetables unappealing to low-income grocery shoppers, Drexel researchers suggest, making packaged, processed and fast food more appealing.

On the other hand, the study also found that ground beef in high-income areas contained more E. coli and fecal contamination than ground beef sold in low-income areas.  That could be because ground beef is part of a more limited meat selection and sells faster at stores serving low-income families while higher-income families have access to a greater variety of meats, so ground beef may sell more slowly, Drexel researchers say.

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