Low income families are at a higher risk of chronic illnesses, alcohol and drug abuse, diseases, and food illness. The main reasons why low income persons face a higher risk of food illness are poor nutrition and food insecurity. The latter are also associated with adverse health outcomes among adults and children and a higher risk for diseases such as diabetes, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, and others.
Causes of Food Illness
Persons in low income households often cut portion size and even skip meals because of food insecurity. Inadequate nutrition often leads to mineral and vitamin deficiency and food-related illnesses because many low income individuals are unable to afford fresh, seasonal produce and balanced meals.
Foodborne Illnesses, Risks, and Symptoms
Food-insecure families face a higher risk of infections with bacteria such as E. Coli, Shigella, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and others. The elderly, children, and persons with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable and at a higher risk of viral, parasitic, and bacterial infections. This can be explained with inadequate access to health services, higher food safety risks, improper storage, and other factors. Symptoms of foodborne disease to watch for include dizziness, headache, nausea, and fever. Other symptoms are vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.
Persons living in poverty-stricken communities are at a higher risk for different foodborne illnesses, including viral hepatitis, intestinal roundworm infections, typhoid fever, salmonella infections, and others. The list of foodborne illnesses also includes Brainerd diarrhea, viral gastroenteritis, and various parasitic and fungal infections.
The Spiral of Debt and Food Illness
Low income families face food insecurity because of restricted access to markets, instability and scarcity, increasing food prices, low wages, and piling debt. Excessive debt is one of the main reasons for poor standard of living and inadequate nutrition. Many people resort to subprime loans with excessive interest rates, including bad credit loans and cash advances. And many fall into a spiral of debt and damaged credit rating and are forced to take on more debt to pay for basic necessities and emergencies.
High interest loans and credit card debt add up, and many low income families are unable to afford basic commodities, appliances, and even shelter. Households that lack appliances and necessities such as ovens, fridges, running water, and electricity are at a higher risk for various infections and even chronic diseases.
How to Prevent Foodborne Illnesses
Hygiene and proper food storage are very important and reduce the risk for serious illnesses. Always check for product cleanliness and keep products separated. Bacteria easily spread on food, countertops, utensils, cutting boards, and appliances. This means that there is a risk of cross contamination and associated infections. Products such as seafood, poultry, raw meat, and other types of food must be kept separate to prevent contamination. Cross contamination is responsible for various foodborne diseases and can occur in the kitchen, during defrosting, in the fridge, and when shopping. There are good food preservation practices, including shelf storage, cold storage, home canning, and others.
Unsafe sanitary conditions also contribute to the higher risk of foodborne diseases. It is important to use hot water and soap after handling pets, changing diapers, using the bathroom, and handling food. Use clean cloths, paper towels, soapy water, and cleaning solutions to disinfect all surfaces, including kitchen appliances, tiles, and other surfaces.
Finally, proper hygiene at stores in low income communities is also important, including better monitoring and enhanced food safety inspection practices.
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Food and waterborne illnesses occur due to contamination with different microorganisms (bacteria) and the toxins released by them. Microorganisms in water and food can cause gastrointestinal and other problems such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain as well as different infections.
Types of Infections and How They Occur
Infections can be divided into algal, viral, bacterial, parasitic, and protozoal. Illnesses occur due to microorganisms in non-treated drinking water, sewage water, groundwater contamination, campgrounds, leaks, and pipe breaks. Infections also occur due to poor disinfection and microorganisms that accumulate on membranes and filters which cannot be thoroughly cleaned or disinfected. Illnesses occur due to seasonal runoff of water, in animal manure, drinking water that is contaminated with feces, bacteria or eggs or contains larvae, and microorganisms found in aquatic environments. The symptoms vary, depending on the type of infection and include double or blurred vision, nosebleed, cramps, high fever, dehydration, vomiting of blood, and lesions. Other symptoms are malaise, muscle aches, anorexia, ataxia, chills, hypovolemic shock, and even renal failure, and liver damage. When algal infections occur, microbial agents enter through open wounds.
Intestinal bacteria contaminate beef and other types of meat during processing. Food contamination also occurs when plants are contaminated by water, animal waste fertilizers, and soil. Unpasteurized juices and milk are possible sources of disease as well and so are products left over longer periods.
Preventing Food and Waterborne Disease
Prevention is important, especially for people who tend to experience severe symptoms such as liver and lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. Pregnant women, those with a compromised or weakened immune system, and the elderly are also at risk. There are certain things to do to prevent food and waterborne disease, and obviously good hygiene is the key to prevention. Wash your hands regularly, especially when travelling. Tap water in some regions of the world is considered unsafe. Drinks in unopened containers, including commercially prepared and carbonated drinks, are safe. Ice from tap water should be avoided as well. Waterborne disease can be avoided by using chemical treatments such as chlorine dioxide and other chlorine preparations. Good hygiene is especially important in confined environments and institutional settings such as nursing homes, cruise ships, daycare, and others. Frequent outbreaks are more frequent in confined environments.Read More