The Consumer Federation of America has found that children from low-income families have an increased risk for foodborne illnesses. Such illnesses are especially prevalent among children under age five. Those belonging to a lower socioeconomic group tend to be exposed to poor nutrition and inadequate health care. Neighborhood stores in low-income areas more frequently engage in food safety violations and are more apt to have higher concentrations of bacteria in their high-risk foods, such as milk and eggs. Ohio’s Uniform Food Safety Code requires that raw eggs must be pasteurized, comply with consumer grade B standards, and be received and maintained in refrigerated containers that do not exceed forty-five degrees Fahrenheit. The Code also requires milk to be pasteurized, comply with grade A standards, and be received in refrigerated containers that do not exceed forty-five degrees. Food safety in impoverished areas is foiled by the dilapidated infrastructure, absence of refrigeration, and restricted resources. Fortunately, to the advantage of low-income families, lower-risk processed foods tend to make up a high proportion of their food consumption. Regardless, foodborne illness is still a real problem among children in low-income families and results in high medical costs. Parents can protect their children from foodborne illnesses by taking a few steps:
- Grocery shopping: Buy only from reputable vendors. Refrigerated items should be placed in the shopping cart last and meats placed separate from produce. Parents should not buy cracked eggs, fruits that have broken skins, unpasteurized ciders or juices, or prestuffed fresh turkeys or chicken.
- Storage of Food: Ground meat, poultry, and fish should be cooked or frozen within one to two days of purchase and steaks, chops, and roasts within three to five days. Ground meats can be kept in the freezer for up to four months and cooked meats up to three months. Eggs should not be taken out of their carton when placed in the refrigerator.
- Preparation of Meals: Parents should wash their hands before preparing meals and clean any fruits and vegetables that will be used in the meals. Foods should be cooked thoroughly and a meat thermometer used to ensure meat is the proper temperature before consumption.
- Clean-Up: Leftover foods from meals should immediately be stowed away in the refrigerator and kept for no more than four days. Kitchen surfaces should be cleaned to kill bacteria. Parents should also regularly sanitize the kitchen sink, drain, and garbage disposal.