Perception of the Importance of Traditional Country Foods to the Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Health of Labrador Inuit
Keywords: aboriginal, country foods, foodborne disease, food safety, Inuit, Labrador, Nunatsiavut, perceptions, qualitative research, zoonoses
AbstractCountry foods play an integral role in Inuit life by providing nutrition and a spiritual connection to the land. However, they can harbour foodborne pathogens, such as zoonotic parasites or bacteria, which can cause disease in humans who consume contaminated meat that has been inadequately cooked. Given the heavy reliance of Inuit on subsistence living, it is important to have a clear understanding of the relative safety of these foods and the role that they play in a changing Inuit society. This community-based participatory research project involved Inuit residents of Nain, Nunatsiavut, Canada. Data on Inuit perceptions of the role, importance, and safety of country foods were collected during a series of interviews with focus groups and key informants. Despite the extremely positive views they expressed about country foods and the connections they provide to the land, community, and past, participants had major concerns about human expansion in the North, mining operations, chemical contamination, and the impact of these issues on animals and the food harvested from those animals. Also of concern was a perceived decrease in the importance of country food in their community in general, and specifically among children. These findings provide an understanding of Nunatsiavut residents’ perceptions that is essential to planning effective, culturally appropriate dissemination of public health messages about the safe consumption of country foods.