Food Markets Without Refrigerators

Most of the agricultural markets in Cuba lack equipment to refrigerate meats. (Bryan Ledgard)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 11 October 2018 — The image of flies perched on a hind leg or hovering around some ribs is familiar to all customers of the so-called agros, where refrigerators to preserve the meat are scarce. Instead, the cuts are exhibited outdoors on pallets from where the sellers pick them up with their hands, without any protection, to weigh them and sell them.

The product that finally reaches the homes of consumers has been without refrigeration for more than 12 hours, because the animals slaughtered the night before and brought to the markets in vehicles that also lack any equipment to preserve them. If the cusotmer is lucky, nothing will have happened and the meat will be tasty, but many times the food already shows a certain degree of deterioration.

«The color was a little weird, but I thought it was nothing,» a customer at the 17th Street Youth Labor Army market in Havana tells 14ymedio. «When I got it home I realized that part of the meat was in poor condition and a piece of the bone had a greenish tone.» The result was the loss of 250 CUP (Cuban pesos), half of her monthly salary.

The complaints are constant and, although there are rules that regulate the handling of food in Cuba, the State has a hard time controlling the problem which also extendes to the network of butchers and dairies in the rationed market. «When the chicken arrives, consumers have to buy it in the first hours, because the fridge is broken,» says an employee of a state-owned store in La Timba neighborhood.

World Health Organization reports that one of the factors that lead to the diseases transmitted through food is, precisely, «the failures in the cold chain» during the transfer and storage of these products.

Need, and a demand that far exceeds the available supply, means that traders end up selling their meats despite the obvious signs of their not having been adequately preserved.

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