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Foodborne illness costs US $152 billion annually, landmark report estimates

3 min read

Public release date: 3-Mar-2010

 

New analysis, interactive online map highlight the need to modernize the nation’s food-safety system

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new study by a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) economist estimates the total economic impact of foodborne illness across the nation to be a combined $152 billion annually.

Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph sh...
Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph showing Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Produce Safety Project, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts at Georgetown University, published the report, Health-Related Costs from Foodborne Illness in the United States. In addition, an interactive online map that graphically represents this cost information for every state in the nation is available at http://www.MakeOurFoodSafe.org/cost_map.

The report ranks states according to their total costs related to foodborne illness and cost per case for an individual, which is $1,850 on average nationwide. The ten states with the highest costs per case are: Hawaii, Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, the District of Columbia, Mississippi, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 76 million new cases of food-related illness – resulting in 5,000 deaths and 325,000 hospitalizations – occur in the United States each year. Continuing outbreaks every year show that this is not a problem that is going away.

“The costs associated with foodborne illness are substantial,” says report author Robert L. Scharff, a former FDA economist who is now an assistant professor in the Department of Consumer Sciences at The Ohio State University. “This study puts the problem of foodborne illness in its proper perspective and should help facilitate reasonable action designed to mitigate this problem.”

The release of the report comes as the U.S. Senate may soon vote on comprehensive food-safety legislation. The U.S. House of Representatives passed its food-safety bill (H.R. 2749) last July, and just before Thanksgiving, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions unanimously approved the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510).

“This report makes it clear that the gaps in our food-safety system are causing significant health and economic impacts,” says Erik Olson, director of food and consumer product safety with the Pew Health Group. “Especially in challenging economic times we cannot afford to waste billions of dollars fighting preventable diseases after it is too late. The Senate needs to act on this now and pass legislation that will improve protections for public health.”

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