Does a higher income level lessen your risk of foodborne illness?

It is important for everyone to know what steps to take to help avoid foodborne illness.

People living in low-resource households are often more susceptible to poor health due to a lack of health education and proper health insurance. Sometimes sanitation problems are also an issue. There is something that we all have in common regardless of our level of income - we all eat. The World Health Organization reported in 2015 that Africa, home to some of the poorest countries in the world, had the largest number of foodborne illness cases of any other country. But the United States, one of the richest countries in the world, was the second largest. How can this closeness in foodborne illness rates between two very different socioeconomic classes be explained?

There are more than 250 possible diseases that arise from foodborne illness, all contracted in differing ways. Some arise from time and temperature abuse, others from poor personal hygiene. For example, some individuals in a high socioeconomic range may be more likely to consume raw or undercooked seafood (sushi), which can be linked to biological toxins or parasites, and some in a lower socioeconomic class may be forced to follow unhealthy behaviors due to a lack of working appliances or desperation from hunger. Individuals with a higher income may be likely to go to farmer’s markets or catered events where food is sitting out longer than it is safe. Those that are food insecure are more desperate to eat and therefore put their hunger over the safety of the food. The list of possibilities can go on, but they all end in foodborne illness.

The bottom line is that being in a higher socioeconomic class does not save a person from foodborne illness. All of us are susceptible because we all eat. One way that we all can help avoid this risk is by learning what food safety measures should be followed and having those who are cooking for us do the same. Michigan State University Extension advises learning all you can about how to avoid foodborne illness for yourselves and those you love. Make sure to:

  • Cook foods to at least their minimum safe internal temperatures.Use a food thermometer to assure you are cooking foods safely.
  • Keep cold foods chilled – at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below. If you don’t have a working thermometer in your refrigerator, look into getting one.
  • Separate raw from ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination. Use the plastic bags provided in the grocery stores to wrap meat and your produce.
  • Clean and sanitize anything that touches raw food. Learn how to make a sanitizing solution out of bleach and water.

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