Food consumption and working conditions in manual sugarcane harvesting in Sao Paulo state1

  • Verônica Gronau Luz Universidade Federal de Alfenas
  • Lia Thieme Oikawa Zangirolani Universidade Federal de São Paulo
  • Rodolfo Andrade de Gouveia Vilela Universidade de São Paulo; Faculdade de Saúde Pública
  • Heleno Rodrigues Corrêa Filho Universidade Estadual de Campinas; Faculdade de Ciências Médicas


Objective To describe the working conditions and aspects related with food consumption amongst manual workers in sugar-cane crops intending to contribute to developing public policies towards workers’ health surveillance and delivering comprehensive services. Methods Direct observation at the work field in upstate São Paulo and a semi-structured questionnaire were conducted with a group of forty sugar-cane migrant workers who came from Ceará state to work as hand harvesters in São Paulo state, over 15 days during the 2007/2008 crop season. Socio-demographic data, water consumption, food consumption and cultural habits, hydro-electrolyte reposition, work pauses, body pains and duration of working days were registered. Results Workers ingested 5 to 10 liters of water/day and the dilution of electrolytes replacement was below the adequate recommendations. Food consumptions during the crop season did not ensure food and nutritional security. Food consumption was monotonous, conserved and consumed at inadequate temperature, and incompatible with cultural habits, implying reduction and wastage of food. Workers reported pains and cramps during the work day. Pauses for resting were insufficient. Payment by results, the working process and payment practices were taken as determinants of a wide range of precarious conditions to which these workers were subjected. The hand harvesting of sugar-cane is extenuating and the payment by results may be a grievance for health as it implies reducing the work resting pauses. Food consumption and adequate hydration could minimize the working wear and pains during the job.


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How to Cite
Luz, V., Zangirolani, L., Vilela, R., & Corrêa Filho, H. (2014). Food consumption and working conditions in manual sugarcane harvesting in Sao Paulo state1 . Saúde E Sociedade, 23(4), 1316-1328.