The Cost of Foodborne Illness: $152 Billion Annually?
We've probably all experienced food poisoning at one time or another. When it happens, it seems like nothing is worse than "praying to the porcelain god."
Usually, it takes only a day or two to pass, and we don't really think too much about it other than a painful inconvenience. Sometimes we're not sure what caused it-such as E. coli or salmonella-or where we might have got it.
But some people have more severe cases than others and need hospitalization. In extreme cases, food poisoning could result in death.
What is the economic cost in all this? The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service estimated in 2000 that the annual costs for five foodborne pathogens were $6.9 billion, including medical care, productivity losses, lost wages and premature death.
But a new study by the Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University estimates the cost is actually as much as $152 billion annually. Dr. Andrew Scharff, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration economist who is now an Ohio State University assistant professor, authored the study. Here's what he had to say said in a statement:
"The contribution of this study is that it provides more complete estimates of the health-related cost of foodborne illness in the United States by summing both medical costs (hospital services, physician services, and drugs) and quality-of-life losses (deaths, pain, suffering, and functional disability) for each of the major pathogens associated with foodborne illness," said Dr. Scharff. "This cost includes both expenses to the person made ill such as pain and suffering losses and costs to others in society such as outlays by insurance companies that pay medical expenses."
The report also comes as the U.S. Senate is considering new food-safety regulations. The House of Representatives passed legislation last year mandating new regulations.
What do you think? How much does foodborne illness cost your state, according to the new study? How does that compare with other states? What do you think of the study's methodology?
Do you think the United States needs more safety measures to prevent foodborne illnesses? What do you think of the timing of the study's release? Do you think that it was deliberately planned this way to put more pressure on the Senate to pass legislation?
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