Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration economist Robert L. Scharff estimates the total economic impact of foodborne illness across the nation to be a combined $152 billion annually.
"The costs associated with foodborne illness are substantial," says Scharff, who is now an assistant professor in the Department of Consumer Sciences at The Ohio State University and author of The Health Related Costs of Foodborne Illness. "This study puts the problem of foodborne illness in its proper perspective and should help facilitate reasonable action designed to mitigate this problem."
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. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 76 million new cases of food-related illness—resulting in 5,000 deaths and 325,000 hospitalizations—occur in the U.S. each year. 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.
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. Furthermore, the coalition agrees that steps to reduce or eliminate contaminated food are sometimes pressing public-health measures that must be taken even when, due to data gaps, a comprehensive monetized economic analysis is not possible.