The Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) compiled data that indicate foodborne illnesses in the United States may result in $15.6 billion in annual costs. The data were compiled from estimates of foodborne illnesses or deaths gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), peer-reviewed data regarding medical costs, published literature, and publicly-available wage data.

In reaching its cost conclusion, the Economic Research Service reviewed data for each of 15 major food pathogens that together are responsible for more than 95 percent of the illnesses or deaths caused by food. For each of the 15 pathogens, the group reviewed the following factors: (1) outpatient medical care costs; (2) inpatient medical care costs; and (3) lost income due to food illnesses or death. The cost study did not include any costs to the food industry, recall expenses, potential litigation costs, or costs to taxpayers to deal with a foodborne illness outbreak in its review.

The study indicated that the pathogens with the largest economic cost to consumers are Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, Norovirus, Salmonella (nontyphoidal), and Toxoplasma gondii. Together, the Economic Research Service found that these pathogens account for more than $13.8 billion of the total $15.6 billion in costs. In addition, the USDA concluded that the 15 pathogens will contribute to almost 9 million illnesses, with more than 5.4 million of the illnesses occurring from the Norovirus. More than 50,000 of those individuals will seek medical care in hospitals, with more than 2,300 succumbing to their illnesses.

The USDA hopes that the data will assist the Food Safety and Inspection Service (“FSIS”) with analyzing the impact of proposed food regulations, provide information to food safety policy makers, and educate the general public as to the scope of food illnesses in the United States.

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