By Sergio Recio and Edith Godón
This article does not pursue interest in demonstrating at all, the effort to subsist of people and their families, who have found today, a way to capture income by marketing homemade food products. However, in recent times, various poisonings, at the moment mild, have emerged from the hand of a huge variety of bacteria that are enemies of human beings.
Insisting on the seriousness of the country's situation today makes no sense. Any citizen is also enough to recognize their life changes and cultural habits. The homeless, picketers, cartoneros etc. They are no longer part of an exclusive social class, but belong to the entire context of society.
Now we have to refer to the food we eat daily.
They're safe? Are we aware of the risks involved in acquiring food on the public highway or on the premises, without knowing its origin?
First of all, it should be made clear that this article does not pursue an interest in demonstrating at all, the effort to survive of people and their families, who have found today, a way to capture income by marketing homemade food products.
However, in recent times, various poisonings, at the moment mild, have emerged from the hand of a huge variety of bacteria that are enemies of human beings.
In recent years we have known the dangers posed by adulterants, pesticides, carcinogens, chemicals and poisonous metals in the intake of our food.
However, precisely, the announcements about the dangers referred to are not the most alarming. In fact, doctors, officials and infectologists, point with greater concern to the pathogens, bacteria, viruses and parasites present in food, and with the power to harm or kill us.
Offering food without covering it in some way is prohibited
At the Retiro station, Ramos Mejía street, Arturo sells bills for a basket. There are no hygiene measures. The basket is on the drawer. Someone passes by coughing. Nothing covers the merchandise. A line 70 micro starts up, and the black smoke from its combustion hits and surrounds the basket.
Some of the many who circulate at that time 8.25 a.m. on one day of the week, buy six bills for one peso. History will repeat itself with others. Caramels, churros, empanadas, cubanitos, hot dogs, two-for-one chipas, frolitas, Japanese nougat and court pizza, do not escape the bacteria from a wind that pushes earth, and they are deposited on food. Juan Alberto told me that once, after eating a hot dog bought in Libertador and Ramos Mejía, Retiro, soon after, he had sweats and a great decompensation. The symptoms lasted a day. What happens when a child is the one who ingests the product?
At the Children's Hospital we received the answer. Oscar is a 29-year-old pediatrician: "Look, a lot of children are admitted with poisoning per week. In recent times, a year at this time, more and more, affected by cheap meals. Children do not eat well. Lacking one good nutrition, they are weaker and more prone to getting sick with bacteria or viruses that find easy breeding ground in them, because there is no organic defensive opposition. The younger they are, the more risk they run ".
Our question was aimed at knowing the social class of the children who are cared for in the Palermo hospital.
"See," replied the doctor, do not think that the poor are the most affected. Middle- and upper-class children arrive here with the same frequency as lower-class children. Remember that fast food houses also have or have had food contamination. In this age, no one is exempt. But children are at the greatest risk.
With that answer, we started to think about what the World Bank's Environment Director, Kristalina Georgieva, means when she says: why bother with nature, given that the Bank focuses its attention on poverty? Bank authorities have confirmed that environmental problems are the main preventable causes of health in poor countries.
From what we know then, the Argentine Republic is wiped off the map.
In the Capital and Greater Buenos Aires, more than six million people live below the poverty line. The decline in purchasing power with wages that buy less and less, have a profound effect on the way a society is fed.
Continuing with the children, we know that each day they receive less food. Those who do not obtain all the necessary proteins in their first year will be immediately condemned to diminished intellectual development for the rest of their lives.
There are schools that can no longer even hold a glass of milk.
A social visitor from the Province of Buenos Aires, commented that she requested a license after months of seeing the deterioration of children in poor schools.
"Some poor people, they fall asleep in the classroom," says Rosita, a first-level teacher of nine-year-olds at a school in La Matanza. "They have no strength because they are weak."
The case repeats itself, rather, it multiplies. Malnutrition is not a problem that involves only nutritional deficiencies, but is deeply related to the environment where the child lives.
If the house, the water supply, the meals he eats, if the excreta systems are insufficient, he and his are exposed to contracting infectious, respiratory and viral diseases, which will impact growth.
Many times, children and people consume chicken. Some hunt in the field for subsistence. Chicken has a bacteria called "campylobacter", cooking temperatures destroy the bacteria, but it happens that many times when the chicken is allowed to thaw, the liquids that it releases contaminate the cutlery, plates or utensils.
How many times between cooling, moving, dressing, selling, and use, was the part frozen or thawed? The Universidad Nacional del Litoral subsidizes a project on "Decontamination of chicken meat" by the Doctor in Microbiology Susana Jiménez.
- The idea - he says - is to reduce to the maximum the contamination that puts chicken as one of the dangers of human ingestion. How is that food handled?
When a pathogenic organism that is in a certain food passes to another due to poor handling and lack of hygiene, let's talk about "cross contamination".
The right thing to do is to use different plates or tables for cooking and preparing food. In San Martín and Bartolomé Miter, between horns, knocks, noise and others, Wenceslao sells empanadas. - Homemade empanadas! ... Delicious homemade empanadas! ... Someone approaches and asks ... Che? ... How much does it come out? ...
- One chicken and one meat, one peso chief-… .In Avda. Cabildo y Mendoza, Mariel offers three homemade empanadas at two pesos.
Will it be safe to buy those empanadas? Something is certain, we did not find any of these vendors there again, another day.
Virginia, works in Miter Railroad, Tigre branch. She told me that eight months ago after eating a vegetable tart bought at the Retiro station, she was hospitalized for two days.
Currently, the place was renovated and eliminated a series of sectors of informal food sales. However, by walking between the bus terminal and Avda. Del Libertador, the impassable street of the stations, it will be possible to corroborate the promiscuity, lack of hygiene, black cooking meats deposited among flies on one side of the grill, and a insecticide spray very close.
This is currently ingested by the people who come there. To avoid the development of microorganisms inside the meat, it is necessary to ensure that the cold chain is not broken.
With vegetables, you must take care that their hygiene is perfect. Not enough good. I insist PERFECT.
Leafy vegetables conserve irrigation water and this in many cases comes from irrigated atmospheric tanks or sewage.
Not all the vegetables that are consumed have passed through the hygienic control screen.
Cheap sandwiches!… Let's go to cheap sandwiches!…
Julián and Fernando approach the street vendor in Lavalle and 25 de Mayo. How much, sir?
- One peso, boy, that of ham and lettuce -
- One fifty for Milanese and lettuce ... -
They both buy. A bomb?
Strangely, the standards for exporting chicken are very demanding for our country, as are frozen vegetables. The internal regulations for their part are not the same nor do they oblige us to comply with them in the commercialization of the products, according to the code that manages the food sanitation service. It is the Hazard Analysis and Critical Points Control System (HACCP- in English, International acronym) that in developed countries is required to control hazards from farm to consumption. Here in Argentina, these processes are not mandatory.
In the city, there are places for the sale of piglets, kids, lambs, rabbits, etc., which do not have any control from SENASA, except for the inspection area of the GCBA, which from trichinosis, parasitosis and intestinal viruses, pass to the people in the blink of a mouth.
Pathogenic organisms continue to multiply in the population until they explode.
Those who participate in barter run one of the greatest dangers of getting sick.
Let's look at a supposed case:
Aurelia lives in a deprived area of Villa Lugano. Miguel, your husband lost his job a long time ago. Every day he comes home later and sometimes he doesn't. He prefers to sleep in a corner of the city so as not to spend on the bus or train. The couple's children barely meet their needs. It occurred to Aurelia, watching TV, that by cooking alfajores, she could exchange them for milk or homemade bread at the Club del Trueque, one of the many in Buenos Aires.
She did it several times, and at the last few times she brought noodles that she kneaded.
Yesterday, after getting up early, she prepared cooked mate for her children and then went to the bathroom. There was no water in the area, so their hygiene was poor. He cleaned himself with a cloth and began to knead. Unintentionally and unaware, some bacteria were left on his hand and entered the mass that later different people, through barter, ingested.
In mild cases, diarrhea, fever and sweats will provoke defense actions in the body. In other milder cases, for a better organic defense of the person, it will only lead to headaches and some vomiting. But in children, they can cause organic chaos, in some cases, culminating in hospitalization, until the traces of ingested viral Salmonellas are eliminated.
This contagion is known as the fecal-oral route (contact with human waste and dirty hands). In this research we went through different food sectors. We were surprised by the movement of some bakeries. We see: Rivadavia and Alberti, Don Bosco and Castro Barros, Cabildo and Monroe and others, the merchant attends the customer's order.
- A quarter of flautitas, José….
José takes the bag and puts the loaves into it with his hands. Then he will charge the customer by manipulating the money. So on.
Nothing is more dangerous than handling money, due to the bacteria it carries. Without thinking and without wanting to, bakeries are means of contagion of diseases, transmitted by money, through the baker's hand to bread. If the bills are handled with tweezers, why not the bread? And this is almost general, except in hypermarkets and very specific bakeries in the city, which maintain strict hygiene control.
The current economic situation made it necessary to change eating habits, in a way that involves great risks.
It is increasingly common to see in provincial municipalities the sale of milk directly from the cow to the consumer.
Those of us who wrote this report many years ago received this type of diet. However, fifty years ago, different contamination viruses had not yet developed, which today are highly risky. The penetration of untreated milk is already distributed in the city of Buenos Aires.
When temperatures start above 20 ° Celsius, the decomposition of the same will carry bacteria such as "Listeria monocytogenes", which survives refrigeration and is in most foods, including cheese and processed meats such as hot dogs. Pregnant people, newborns, and people with weak immune systems are the most susceptible.
And here we see the virosis circle. Because current child malnutrition receives this type of food, as an action to counteract it and in some cases, they end up being health emergencies with serious prognoses.
If there are seasonal diseases, there should also be seasonal controls.
Ice creams are another risk issue, when at high temperatures, the milk and cream that are used are not controlled enough.
Talking with doctors from the Institute of Gastroenterology, they realized that, in recent times, irrigation water contaminated by sewage or manure transfers it to food. The "Shigella sommei" is the bacterium that causes a highly infectious disease that is spread by physical contact. And here, children in daycare are very vulnerable. Vegetables from these centers do not always arrive well sanitized, much less from known origins.
In Santa Fe and Rodríguez Peña, Beto sells caramelised. The product is made on site. It uses water from a drum that, due to its dirt, almost disguises its original color. The water ... where does it come from? Several passersby buy. Another bomb?… The issue is so controversial that cities like Santa Fe, Córdoba, and Mendoza have started courses for "good food handling practices." The purpose, they explained to us, is to train people who purchase, select, manufacture and sell food. In particular, it seeks to instruct people to exchange meals at the nodes of the barter clubs.
We try to find out what is done in Buenos Aires. However, no one could give us an answer. Except for the Chief of Toxicology at Hospital Fernández, Norma E. Vallejo, who told us about different kinds of common poisonings in the City.
But he added something to us that we do not know. The ingestion of mushrooms has produced and produces negligent deaths in those who collect them without knowing them. This is important to highlight because there are places that sell bags with mushrooms, who knows where they are collected from.
Just in case, the Pereyra Iraola Park area, on the way to the city of La Plata, is an endemic area for poisonous fungi, producers of toxins that affect humans The amanita Faloides will cause diarrhea, vomiting and hallucinations, culminating in death if not they are treated on time. Only six hours will elapse between ingestion and symptoms.
Returning to clandestine tasks, they take place in the borderlands of the big city. Kids, piglets, calves, etc., are processed and resold without any sanitary control, beyond the efforts of Senasa, to detect them.
There are also risks of generation of "biogenic amines" in the maturation of dairy and meat foods, produced by bacteria. Another risk is represented by "Escherichia Coli" whose reservoir is animals and food. This bacterium was identified for the first time in 1982 as a cause of disease. It produces a strong toxin that causes bloody diarrhea and kidney complications. In general, infections are the result of eating undercooked ground beef. Food security is a moving target on people. By changing our eating habits, food changes. So do microbes. They take hold in populations and cause new diseases. The "Escherichia Coli" has variants so virulent that they can cause death.
Many of the microbes are present in animals that are raised for the food industry. When an animal carrying them is slaughtered for consumption, the contents of its stomach, or its faeces, can contaminate the meat during processing. Fruits and vegetables can pick up pathogens if they are washed or watered with water contaminated with manure or human waste.
It is important to know that these microbes can take over and multiply on sponges, saucepan towels, cutting boards for fruits and vegetables, kitchens, knives, and frying plates.
The economy bets on risk
But the most important thing is that foods with the current control parameters are also invaded by new forms, or modified or recreated of infectious agents, which force the establishment of new forms of control and studies, since they survive traditional methods of cooking and cooling, which we knew sometimes ended up with. And then, on a final tour of the city, we walked along the Costanera Norte, Costanera Sur, Avda. Gral. Paz, and we were surprised by the number of mobile businesses, selling the traditional choripán. And the worst thing is that they have been around for years and no one, government after government, has eradicated them, knowing that these businesses are agents of disease transmission, because, beyond all the elements they lack, they do not have drinking water or even to sanitize the hands of those who care for them. And they lack everything, because, to the possibility that a municipal inspection comes to remove them, they must have the ability to withdraw with everything, with the least possible loss. Then they will come back. Once again. As always, just a few hours after the raid, previously warned, who knows what municipal agent has passed through. And they will continue to sell those uncontrolled products, with the mayonnaise in the sun, regenerating bacteria, which in some diner, will unleash the usual decomposition of these cases. Until a death occurs. And there will come the recriminations, the tearing of clothes, the "I did not go", the wrongful death, etc. We could continue to expand. There are hundreds of topics on food, which day by day, is more uncontrolled. Efficiency and hygiene were replaced by economy, which bets on risk.
Health authorities fear that conditions in the crowded city will favor contamination and the spread of disease. Certain antibiotics no longer respond to certain viruses. This is also serious, since certain animals are given antibiotics in order to counteract the effects of the pathogens that they carry organically. But that happens to man, and it happens that children receive this process, which over the years, seems to cause an opposite effect and makes these children allergic or immune to the effects of the antibiotic, exposing them to the risks of microbes.
The indiscriminate use of antibiotics as food supplements in animals for consumption constitutes a serious threat to human health.
In the US, concern grows, precisely on this issue, as laboratories insist on keeping animals healthy to reduce the risks of contagion of zoonotic diseases (transmission from animals to humans).
And the social situation, once again, decadent, that, more than half of our children do not even feed themselves with what is necessary, with poverty, the lack of resources for health, education, where every day fewer children have the right to it, where for every 1% of the cost of living, one hundred thousand people enter the poverty line, where a person from the Plan to work receives 0.20 cents per hour of monthly work, and will have to work seven hours today to buy a liter of milk for his son, for ... for ... for so many things that we should write another note as long as this one. And all this is another matter. More rippling and sad than the one we have.
By Sergio Recio and Edith Godón
As you know, the current economic situation implies a sharp deterioration in the nutritional conditions of the population. But not only malnutrition has taken over the former barn of the world. There is also a marked decrease in the quality of what we are eating. Street vendors, suspicious choripanes, fermented mayonnaises, are some of the examples of a situation that can be aggravated when summer arrives, due to the greater bacterial activity of that season.
In this, as in other similar situations, the response capacity of public bodies seems to be too slow. Do we have some form of food control over what is offered every day and everywhere? Are there, even if it were, any criteria to educate those who offer food so that their commercial activity does not become dangerous? Does anyone keep a record of the eventual increase in poisonings that could be occurring? Is anyone thinking how to avoid it? Or are things just left to chance?
Here, you receive a report from Sergio Recio and Edith Godón, in which they analyze some aspects of food security in the City of Buenos Aires. None of this is too unexpected. Perhaps the novelty is not having found the management bodies that should be working on the issue.
A big hug to all.
Antonio Elio Brailovsky Deputy Ombudsman of the City of Buenos Aires