Posts Tagged: produce
Los consumidores que compran frutas y verduras en tiendas localizadas en vecindarios de bajos recursos de California podrían pagar más por esos productos que quienes los adquieren en otros vecindarios, según reveló un estudio que analizó los precios en una amplia muestra de tiendas de todo el estado.
El estudio, conducido por investigadores del Instituto de Políticas sobre Nutrición de UC (NPI, por sus siglas en inglés) y publicado en línea en marzo del 2018 en el diario Public Health Nutrition, incluye a más de 200 tiendas de abarrotes grandes, 600 tiendas pequeñas y 600 tiendas de conveniencia en 225 vecindarios de bajos recursos (donde al menos la mitad de la población se ubica por debajo de un 185 por ciento del nivel federal de pobreza). Los expertos compararon los precios observados con información sobre precios de tiendas de abarrotes pertenecientes a cadenas comerciales en los mismos condados durante los mismos meses.
El estudio determinó que los precios de las frutas y verduras que fueron examinadas (manzanas, plátanos, zanahorias y tomates) eran más altos en las tiendas ubicadas en vecindarios de bajos recursos que los precios promedio de esos mismos productos que se vendían en otras tiendas en los mismos condados durante el mismo mes. Las frutas y verduras de venta en tiendas de conveniencia en vecindarios de bajos recursos eran significativamente más altos que los que se vendían en mercados pequeños o tiendas de abarrotes grandes. Pero aún en las tiendas de abarrotes más grandes ubicadas en barrios de bajos recursos, los precios eran más altos que los precios promedio de las tiendas del mismo condado durante el mismo mes.
“Los estadounidenses comen muy pocas frutas y verduras para mantener una salud óptima y sabemos que las disparidades dietéticas entre los grupos socioeconómicos van en aumento”, señaló la autora del estudio, Wendi Gosliner. “Este estudio sugiere que un tema importante puede ser el precio de las frutas y verduras — no es solo el hecho de que, caloría por caloría las frutas y verduras son más caras que muchos alimentos no saludables, sino también que existen asuntos de equidad en términos de precios relativos en vecindarios donde viven californianos de bajos recursos”.
Asimismo, el estudio analizó la calidad y disponibilidad de las frutas y verduras en las tiendas y encontró que mientras que menos de la mitad de las tiendas de conveniencia (41 por ciento) vendían frutas y verduras frescas, aún menos (1 de cada 5) vendía una amplia variedad de frutas y verduras y pocos de los productos a la venta fueron clasificados por los observadores capacitados como de alta calidad (25 por ciento de las frutas y 14 por ciento de las verduras).
“Este estudio sugiere que las tiendas de conveniencia en los vecindarios de bajos recursos no proveen acceso a frutas y verduras frescas de alta calidad y precios competitivos", dijo Pat Crawford, experta en nutrición y autora del estudio. “Una dieta saludable puede prevenir enfermedades y reducir los costos por atención médica en el estado. Los estados necesitan explorar nuevas formas para ayudar a asegurar que las familias, particularmente aquellas que viven en vecindarios de bajos recursos donde las tiendas de conveniencia son las únicas minoristas en alimentos, tengan acceso a alimentos saludables, de alta calidad y económicos”, agregó Crawford.
El estudio también reveló que las tiendas de conveniencia que participan en los programas federales de alimentos (Programa de Asistencia Nutricional Suplementaria [SNAP, por sus siglas en inglés] y/o el Programa de Nutrición Suplementaria para Mujeres, Infantes y Niños [WIC, por sus siglas en inglés] tienden más a vender frutas y verduras frescas y a ofrecer una mejor variedad y calidad de estos productos que las que no participan en ninguno de los dos programas.
El estudio se realizó bajo contrato con el Departamento de Salud Pública de California. Los fondos para este estudio provienen de USDA y SNAP. USDA es un proveedor y empleador de oportunidad igualitaria.
“The goal of our study is to provide organic farmers with science-based strategies that effectively limit food-safety risks when using raw manure-based soil amendments,” said Alda Pires, UC Cooperative Extension urban agriculture and food safety specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis.
To study the survival of pathogens in soil and soil health, UC scientists are recruiting California growers who use raw or untreated manure in organically grown crop fields.
Pires is leading the project in California with Michele Jay-Russell, a veterinary research microbiologist and manager at the Western Center for Food Safety at UC Davis.
The researchers will visit participating farms eight times over the 2017-2018 growing season.
“We will collect produce, water, soil and manure samples,” said Jay-Russell. “All of the samples will be tested for bacterial indicators such as nonpathogenic E. coli and pathogens. We will ask the farmers to complete a short survey. The study is voluntary and all locations and names will be kept confidential.”
Eligible California farms must be certified as organic by the National Organic Program or California Certified Organic Farmers and fertilize with raw manure or untreated manure from dairy cattle, horses or poultry. The farms can grow any of the following produce: lettuce, spinach, carrots, radishes, tomatoes or cucumbers.
This study is being conducted in other states by the University of Minnesota, University of Maine, USDA Agricultural Research Service's Beltsville Agricultural Center, USDA Economic Research Service's Resource and Rural Economics Division, Cornell University and The Organic Center. The project is funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Organic Research and Extension Initiative grant.
One of the events that attendees could sign up for was lunch with a scientist at The Ohio State University, located a few miles away from the conference venue. I chose Prof. Jeffrey LeJeune, an infectious disease microbiologist and epidemiologist, because a focus of his research is food safety, one of the topics included in the UC Global Food Initiative that UC President Janet Napolitano launched on July 1.
On the day of the luncheon, a Sunday, we were driven to The Ohio State University in buses the university provided. We assembled in the lobby of the Ohio Union (it was homecoming on campus and the Columbus marathon was in progress nearby), and were soon escorted to the tables of the scientists we had picked. The university kindly (and safely!) provided lunch.
At LeJeune's table, we introduced ourselves to one another. LeJeune began his presentation to his 15 guests by rebuffing the five-second rule. According to this rule, food dropped on the ground will not become contaminated with bacteria if it is picked up within five seconds of being dropped. LeJeune said it does not work. “Eating off the floor violates all food-borne illness prevention advice,” he warned.
Perhaps because we in his audience were all science writers, he proceeded to discuss communication challenges facing scientists. He said most of the emphasis in graduate training is on making discoveries, with hardly any attention paid to communicating these discoveries in lay language to benefit the general public. Other challenges he mentioned are the information explosion we are witnessing, resulting in deaf ears turned to many scientists' voices; and language barriers between scientists and journalists that hinder effective communication.
“The pasteurization of milk was a huge benefit to the health of the human population,” he said. “Most cheeses in the U.S. are pasteurized cheese products.”
We asked him many questions. He answered them all. He explained that the U.S. has the safest food supply. Despite this, pathogens can enter the food chain through live animals, he cautioned. Further, refrigeration could be inadequate. He said about 80 percent of food and vegetable contamination occurs post-farm. His tip for what to eat when traveling: “Avoid raw or unpeeled foods. It is best to choose what is fully cooked and hot.”
LeJeune noted there is no evidence to suggest that GM foods are problematic from a food safety perspective.
“There are some concerns for sure,” he said. “But these are largely economic or political. Nutrition-wise, GM foods can be beneficial. From a food safety and nutritional standpoint, I also see no significant differences between organic produce and non-organic or regular produce. There could be, however, some environmental impacts related to the different production systems.”
More questions followed. A discussion on E. coli bacteria gathered momentum, specifically how E. coli gets infected with a virus and how, when this virus decides to leave E. coli, it releases Shiga toxins, which, in turn, damage cells lining the kidney.
We were so engrossed in the discussion that it came as a surprise when one of the organizers of the luncheon strode into the room to inform us that our hour with the scientist was up and that the bus that had transported us to The Ohio State University was about to leave.
As we rose hastily from our chairs we thanked LeJeune for his presentation, which was clear and to the point – qualities all science (and other) writers appreciate. We know he had other topics to discuss with us: Can I cook my Jack-o'-Lantern after Halloween? (The answer is “Not if it sits out for more than two hours.”) And are raw diets for dogs a public health concern for humans? (The answer is “Your dog is more likely to have Salmonella if it is eating raw food.)
Although we didn't get to these topics, he left us with ample useful information about food safety. On the ride back to the conference, the bus was loud with conversation from the various lunch groups – what had been learned, how best it could be communicated, and how each one of us had made a new friend at the university.
A year ago, a co-worker wrote a post on this blog entitled “It’s just a waste.” The sad facts of food waste are something we pay attention to since we work for the UC Postharvest Technology Center. A key component of our Center’s mission is to “reduce postharvest losses.” This topic also hits close to home on a personal level since I have always struggled with using up produce before it spoils. I go shopping about once a week, and tend to purchase just a bit more produce than what we will actually eat – in the hopes that one of us will suddenly adopt healthier eating habits by increasing our intake of fresh produce. I place the produce in my fruit ripening bowl, on the counter, or in the fridge, according to the recommendations on my handy produce storage chart. But nearly every week something goes awry, usually with my schedule, and I end up not serving the delicious produce-based meals I had planned, or I forget to pack my lunch, and oops, the negative effects of delayed consumption hit my produce.
I want to do better, too! I hereby resolve to try harder to stick with my menu plan, pay closer attention to produce on the counter and the fridge (sometimes known affectionately in the produce industry as the “black hole”), and I will try very hard to be more creative in my use or preservation of quickly ripening produce.
My single biggest challenge is bananas. I try to buy a smaller hand of 5 to 6 bananas with some green tint left. They go on my banana hook in a cooler corner of my kitchen. At least half the weeks of the year those bananas have black spots within 3 to 4 days, and by day 5 there are usually 2 to 3 bananas left that are no longer appealing to my family. So almost half the bananas I buy usually don’t get eaten. I know, I know, “buy a smaller hand of bananas,” you say. That’s easier said than done, at least at the markets in which I shop.
Thankfully there are many cooks out there willing to share their recipes for creative ways to use up an over-supply of bananas. Below is a starting list of ideas that I’ll be drawing from as I make an effort to reduce produce waste, and especially banana waste, in our home.
- Slice into 1-inch chunks, freeze in a single layer on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Transfer into a zip-bag and return to the freezer to use as needed for fruit smoothies or other cooking projects
- Banana bread or banana muffins
- Homemade banana ice cream
- Banana layer cake with cream cheese frosting
- Slice lengthwise, sauté in butter and ¼ tsp. rum flavoring until golden brown, and serve on ice cream
- Banana crunch cookies
- Make banana pancakes, add chocolate chips if desired (here’s a link to a pancake recipe called “Chunky Monkey” my son-in-law likes to make)
- Peel, insert a lollipop or popsicle stick and freeze. Eat as is, or dip in melted chocolate.
- Banana drop cookies
- Slice, dip in fresh lemon juice, and dry in a dehydrator
- Make a warm spiced banana topping that’s great on ice cream or gingerbread
- Banana oatmeal bar cookies
- Banana pudding
- Fruit Skewers
- Bananas Foster
- Banana Daiquiri
- Tropical banana bar cookies with raisins, pecans and coconut
- Banana cream pie
- Peanut butter, banana and rum bar cookies
- Burrito Bananas Foster
- Fruit Salad
- Banana crepes
- Dessert Pizza
- Banana Bundt cake with caramel frosting
- Fruit salsa, served with cinnamon tortilla chips
- Banana split
- Strawberry-banana parfait with yogurt and granola
Working at the Postharvest Technology Center, I often think about how to spread our mission of how to reduce postharvest losses and improve the quality, safety and marketability of fresh horticultural products. Part of doing this is educating consumers about making good choices so they have a better experience eating fruits and vegetables. And, if consumers have a better experience with fruits and vegetables, we eat more of them. If we can create demand at the consumer end, it will trickle through to the people that handle your produce: processors, retailers, distributors, carriers, marketers, shippers and finally growers.
I spoke with Jim Thompson, who wrote “From the Farm to Your Table: A Consumer’s Guide to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables” along with Adel Kader, two distinguished experts in the field of postharvest technology. Thompson said they wrote the publication knowing that, “For most consumers, it’s kind of a mystery what influences the quality of their produce. This publication answers some of the questions of how to make good choices at the market and at home.”
Thompson adds, “There are many things that can steal quality from produce. And it starts at the farm.”
The type of cultivar the farmer chooses to plant and what kind of soil, temperature and light conditions, irrigation and fertilization practices at the farm affect flavor and nutritional quality. When the product was harvested, how it was handled prior to arrival at your market, and how your market stores the product all influence the quality of your produce.
You certainly know which market in town has the best produce section, and it’s important to you. In fact, according to the 2011 National Grocers Association Consumer Survey Report, “Consumers say they are keeping health a priority—and 91 percent regard a stellar produce department as a ‘very important’ factor in where they buy groceries. This is precisely the same percentage as a year ago, which represented a dramatic five-point jump from the 86% level of two years ago. While the recession may have withered wallets, it hasn’t hurt consumers’ resolve on this measure.”
Please contact us at (530) 754-4326 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in ordering multiple copies for a nutrition, health or cooking class or you can purchase them through our online bookstore.