Foodborne illness costs US$152 bln per year

Acute foodborne illnesses, such as those caused by Salmonella, cost the US an estimated $152 bln per year in healthcare, workplace and other economic losses, according to a report published by the Produce Safety Project (PSP).

The study, Health-Related Costs from Foodborne Illness in the United States, was written by Dr. Robert L. Scharff, a former Food and Drug Administration economist and current Ohio State University assistant professor in the department of consumer sciences. The study estimates that more than a quarter of these costs, an estimated $39 bln, are attributable to foodborne illnesses associated with fresh, canned and processed produce. 

“The costs associated with foodborne illness are substantial," says Scharff, "This study puts the problem of foodborne illness in its proper perspective and should help facilitate reasonable action designed to mitigate this problem."

The FDA has announced that it will propose before the end of the year mandatory and enforceable safety standards.

"A decade ago, we spent more than $1.3 bln annually to try to reduce the burden of foodborne illness and today we are spending even more. We need to make certain we are spending limited funds wisely and hitting our target of reducing sicknesses and deaths, and this study gives us a yardstick to measure our progress," said Jim O'Hara, PSP director.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approx. 76 mln new cases of food-related illness occur in the US each year, resulting in 5,000 deaths and 325,000 hospitalisations.

While the Make Our Food Safe coalition does not necessarily endorse any single method to develop such estimates, coalition members agree that this study highlights the magnitude of the problem and the need for action to reduce foodborne disease.

The Make Our Food Safe coalition's interactive online map uses data from the report to graphically represent foodborne illness cost information for every state in the nation.


Natalie Berkhout

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