Features, Findings, & Statistics

  • Finding

    Although Small, Markets Have Been Expanding for GE Crops With Traits That Increase Nutrient Content or Improve Taste

    Genetically engineered (GE) crops are plants with genetic material that has been altered to achieve one or more desirable features. Although small, markets have been recently expanding for GE crops with traits that increase nutrient content or improve the taste of certain foods for consumers.
  • Feature

    The California Leafy Greens Industry Provides an Example of an Established Food Safety System

    The California Leafy Greens Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) was established in 2007 to provide a minimum food safety standard for that industry. A recent ERS case study examined the 2012 food safety practices and costs of seven large LGMA participants.
  • Feature

    Regulation, Market Signals, and the Provision of Food Safety in Meat and Poultry

    Public disclosure of information on food safety performance enables buyers to make more informed purchasing decisions regarding food safety, thereby signaling their demand for a higher level of food safety.
  • Finding

    Increased Consumer Sensitivity to Food Safety Raised Financial Costs of Ground Beef Recalls

    During the 2 years following the December 2003 discovery of a BSE-positive cow in the United States, consumers’ purchases of ground beef fell by an average of 0.26 pounds per person following each of the 12 ground beef recalls issued by the Government.
  • Feature

    Patterns in FDA Food Import Refusals Highlight Most Frequently Detected Problems

    ERS research shows that problems with adulterated and misbranded food imports persist, despite FDA’s deterrence and detection efforts. Fishery/seafood products, vegetable/vegetable products, and fruit/fruit products were the industries with the most shipments refused in 2005-13 and also in 1998-2004.
  • Feature

    Consumers Behaved Rationally, If Belatedly, After Food Safety Recalls in 2011 and 2012

    In response to two cantaloupe recalls, U.S. consumers reduced their purchases of cantaloupes when they thought the risk of eating cantaloupes might be fatal, but not when the threat was a less serious illness. This differentiated behavior indicates that—at least in these two food safety breaches—consumers treated bigger risks as bigger problems.
  • Statistic

    Quantifying the Impacts of Foodborne Illnesses

    ERS estimates that 15 foodborne pathogens cost the U.S. economy $15.5 billion each year, with just 5 pathogens accounting for 90 percent of this economic burden.
  • Finding

    Strict Standards Nearly Eliminate Salmonella From Ground Beef Supplied to Schools

    Each year, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service provides about half of the ground beef served in the National School Lunch Program by purchasing raw and cooked ground beef products from U.S. meat producers. AMS’s stringent safety standards incentivize meat companies to reduce Salmonella levels in ground beef supplied to schools to near zero, a level lower than many commercial markets.
  • Statistic

    The Size and Scope of Locally Marketed Food Production

    In 2012, 163,675 farmers sold an estimated $6.1 billion in local foods. "Local foods" includes food for human consumption sold via direct-to-consumer (e.g., farmers’ markets, on-farm stores, farm stands, pick-your-own activities, and other farmer-to-consumer venues) and intermediated marketing channels (sales directly to restaurants, grocers, schools, universities and other institutions).
  • Feature

    Food Loss—Questions About the Amount and Causes Still Remain

    ERS estimates that 31 percent, or 133 billion pounds, of food available for consumption in U.S. grocery stores, restaurants, and homes went uneaten in 2010. Greater awareness of the amount of food loss—and where and why it occurs—may help spur public and private responses.
  • Finding

    Recent Estimates of the Cost of Foodborne Illness Are in General Agreement

    Recent studies by ERS, University of Florida, and Ohio State University researchers agree that Salmonella and Toxoplasma gondii are the first and second most costly foodborne pathogens in the United States in terms of medical care, lost time from work, and losses due to premature death.
  • Feature

    U.S. Food Safety Policy Enters a New Era

    ERS research conducted over the past two decades provides a number of lessons that can help identify efficient and effective means of implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010.
  • Feature

    Irradiation of Produce Imports: Small Inroads, Big Obstacles

    Irradiation is an alternative treatment for foodborne pests on imported fruit and vegetables, but it requires labeling and large investments in facilities and some consumers remain wary of the process.
  • Finding

    For Most Meat and Poultry Plants, Federally Mandated Controls Are Just the Starting Point for Food Safety

    Most U.S. meat and poultry processors go beyond the requirements of Government-mandated food-safety controls and supplement these controls with their own standards. But for some meat and poultry plants, mandated controls are the only food safety actions.
  • Finding

    Peanut Processing and Sales Hold Steady After Peanut-Product Recalls

    One of the largest food recalls in U.S. history occurred in early 2009 with the removal of thousands of food products containing peanut ingredients potentially contaminated with Salmonella. In the first 2 months after the recalls began in January 2009, consumers reduced purchases of peanut-containing products, but by April 2009, purchases exceeded the previous year’s levels.
  • Finding

    Broiler Producers Search for Alternatives to Antibiotics

    Broiler producers who do not administer subtherapeutic antibiotics rely instead on a portfolio of other practices to prevent disease and promote growth in birds. Operations of producers who do not use STAs are characterized by more rigorous sanitation practices, improved ventilation for poultry housing, and more extensive testing for pathogens than farms of STA users.
  • Finding

    Adulteration Accounts for Majority of FDA Food-Related Import Refusals

    ERS researchers analyzed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data on food import shipments that were refused entry into the U.S. during 1998-2004. Of the 70,369 import violations in 1998-2004, 65 percent were for adulteration, 33 percent for misbranding, and 2 percent were other violations, such as items forbidden or restricted in sale. The three imported food categories with the most violations were vegetable products, seafood products, and fruit products.
  • Finding

    Lasting Influence of BSE on U.S. Protein Feed Markets

    An ERS study of a series of BSE/vCJD risk-reduction initiatives examines the cost of these policies, which have progressively limited the use of animal byproducts and rendered products by the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and feed-manufacturing industries.
  • Finding

    ERS and Collaborators Model Foot-and-Mouth Disease Outbreaks

    ERS and university collaborators developed a simulation model to demonstrate the effects of mitigation strategies and impacts of export embargoes for beef, beef cattle, hogs, and pork. In the simulations, the swine and pork sectors recovered soon after export restrictions ended, but beef and cattle effects lingered due to the longer cattle production cycle. Production of all commodities returned to pre-disease levels in less than 2 years.
  • Finding

    Pest Problems Abroad May Affect Compliance With U.S. Safeguards

    Economically efficient treatment schedules to control Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) infestations increase with the fraction of U.S. imports of fresh fruits and vegetables infested with medfly larvae. When medfly populations abroad are at or below average levels, the economic incentives of fruit and vegetable producers are consistent with U.S. treatment schedules. However, when medfly population levels abroad are exceptionally high, profits received by a representative foreign producer are maximized at a cold treatment level lower than the U.S.
  • Feature

    U.S. Consumers Had Short-Term Response to First BSE Announcements

    ERS researchers compared household-level retail food purchases of three types of beef products before and after the 2003 U.S. government announcements of finding two North American cows infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) to see if consumers reduced their purchases of those products, and, if so, for how long. Food purchase data reveal that the response of U.S. consumers to those announcements was limited and dissipated within 2 weeks.
  • Feature

    Outbreak Linked to Spinach Forces Reassessment of Food Safety Practices

    This article reviews the 2006 foodborne illness outbreak associated with spinach. It discusses the voluntary Food and Drug Administration guidelines (Good Agricultural Practices) for minimizing microbial contamination of fresh produce and the benefits and costs to farmers of adopting these guidelines. The article concludes with industry strategies to reduce future outbreaks.
  • Feature

    Where Should the Money Go? Aligning Policies With Preferences

    Budget constraints force policymakers to choose which programs to fund, even when human health and safety are at risk. The principle of weighing costs and benefits can help policymakers determine which programs will save the most lives or lead to the largest improvements in health and well-being. This Amber Waves feature article examines different ways economists (and others) look at placing monetary values on risks and preferences.