San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Ricans' eating habits worsened during crisis

A recent study by the University of Costa Rica revealed that 43.5 percent of Costa Ricans are eating less healthily than a year ago.

According to the study, Costa Ricans are buying food of a lower quality, at a cheaper price and in lesser quantities.

Experts suspect the poor eating habits have something to do with the economic crisis that seeped into Costa Rica at the beginning of 2009.

“A good percentage of the population of the country makes adjustments in its eating habits in order to adapt to the high cost of living,” said Irma Sandoval, who helped manage the study. “If families make other adaptations in other areas, food occupies the third place in the scale of things that change.”

To respond to the changing food habits, surveyors recommended that the government take action to ensure good nutrition, stimulate local food production and improve price controls on basic foods.

“When we talk about food safety, we are referring to production, availability, and accessibility to ingredients used to produce food,” said Luis Fernando Fernández, who collaborated on the project. “Food safety development is fundamental for the implications it has for the stability of democracy in a nation.”

The study, which was called “Implications of the Crisis on Food Security and Nutrition,” was administered via telephone to more than 800 people over the age of 18.

Also included in the questions was the perception of body weight, to which sixty two percent of interviewees believe they have a good body weight, 30 percent say they feel obese and 37 percent say there is a problem of obesity in their family. Participants in the survey were also asked their perception of food handling in commercial establishments; 76 percent said food is not handled well due to lack of hygienic practices and limited nutritional awareness.

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