Foodborne illnesses in US carry $77.7B price tag
Posted: February 1st, 2012 - 6:26pm
Source: The Lantern
Foodborne illnesses in the United States have a price tag of $77.7 billion a year in terms of economic burden, according to an analysis by Ohio State professor Robert Scharff.
The release of new data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011 estimated that in the U.S., 48 million people suffer from foodborne illnesses each year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths from 31 identified pathogens as well as unspecified agents. Scharff, an economist and researcher with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) applied the numbers to his own model, created in 2010, in order to find a more accurate figure in his new analysis, which was published in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of Food Protection.
"The basic purpose of the study was a couple of things," Scharff said. "First of all, to try to figure out what the burden of illness is so that it could be used in policy making. Both in terms of looking at cost-per-case so you can deal with specific interventions, but also looking at the total burden so we can see as a nation how big this problem is relative to other problems."
In 2010, Scharff applied his model using the previous the CDC data from 1999, arriving at a total cost of $151.6 billion associated with foodborne illnesses. The seeming drop in overall costs from 2010 to 2011 is mostly due to a change in methodology from the 1999 to the 2011 the CDC data, Scharff said.
Variables included in other analyses are medical costs, productivity losses and costs associated with death. Scharff'smodel adds the value of pain and suffering.
"In my opinion, the enhanced method is better," Scharff said. "Let's put it this way, if you don't include pain and suffering, you're saying that people that have a painful foodborne illness, and are sick for several days, but don't miss work or go to the doctor, there's no impact, and that's not true. Obviously there is a cost to society from people being sick whether they use resources or not."
Doug Powell, professor of food safety at Kansas State University, said that behind medical costs, productivity costs associated with incapacitation from illness is one of the largest burdens foodborne illnesses create.