A new study by a former U.S. FDA economist estimates the total economic impact of foodborne illness across the nation to be a combined $152 billion annually. 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.
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.
"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 Senate may soon vote on comprehensive food-safety legislation. The House of Representatives passed its food-safety bill last July, and just before Thanksgiving, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions unanimously approved the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.
"This report makes it clear that the gaps in our food-safety system are causing significant health and economic impacts," argues 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."
To obtain a copy of the report, visit www.MakeOurFoodSafe.org.