Food Safety and Food Access: A Pilot Study

Ellen K. Silbergeld, Jose Augusto Frisancho, Joel Gittelsohn, Elizabeth T. Anderson Steeves, Matthew F. Blum, Carol A. Resnick


Objectives: This study was designed to evaluate the feasibility of testing the hypothesis that differences in neighborhood level food access may be associated with consumer exposure to food borne microbial contamination.

Methods: This study was carried out in Baltimore MD in 2011 among selected neighborhoods defined as high or low food access. In each category, packages of chicken thighs and ground beef were purchased from small stores and supermarkets. We evaluated presence of E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus and also tested isolates for antimicrobial resistance.

Results: Microbial contamination of both chicken and beef products was highly prevalent (S. aureus-13/32 for chicken and 14/32 for beef; E. coli 21/32 for chicken and 12/32 for beef). Small stores were more likely to sell food carrying these microbes as well as MDR strains of both E. coli and S. aureus, and chicken was more likely to carry E. coli as compared to ground beef.

Conclusions: This is the first study of this hypothesis. While it is limited in size and in focus on one US city, the results indicate that further research is appropriate to examine neighborhood level risk factors for differential exposures to food borne microbes.

Abbreviations: S. aureus (Staphylococcus aureus); E. coli (Escherichia coli), MRSA (methicilllin resistant Staphylococcus aureus), MDR (multi-drug resistant), LFA (low food access), HFA (high food access). FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), USDA (US Department of Agriculture), CLSI (Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute).

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Journal of Food Research   ISSN 1927-0887 (Print)   ISSN 1927-0895 (Online)  E-mail:

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