Publications

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  • Calculating the Cost of Foodborne Illness: A New Tool to Value Food Safety Risks

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2003

    Seventy-six million Americans fall ill each year from eating foods contaminated with bacteria, viruses, and parasites. If you have ever been one of them, you are acquainted with some of the costs these diseases inflict. Discomfort, pain, time lost from normal activities, forgone earnings, spending on medications, long-term medical treatment, and even death are all among the possible consequences of foodborne illness. Possible financial costs can run to millions of dollars.

  • Consumer Food Safety Behavior: A Case Study in Hamburger Cooking and Ordering

    AER-804, May 17, 2002

    This report examines changes in hamburger preparation behavior, the reasons for the changes, the medical costs saved as a result of the changes, and the implications for future food safety education.

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

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2016

    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.

  • Consumers’ Response to the 2006 Foodborne Illness Outbreak Linked to Spinach

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    Consumers responded to the FDA's September 2006 warnings to avoid eating spinach because of possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7. While spinach expenditures fell, consumers turned to other leafy greens as substitutes. The longer term drop in retail expenditures on fresh spinach products was almost matched by gains in expenditures on other leafy greens.

  • Economic Assessment of Food Safety Regulations: The New Approach to Meat and Poultry Inspection

    AER-755, July 01, 1997

    USDA is now requiring all Federally inspected meat and poultry processing and slaughter plants to implement a new system called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) to reduce potentially harmful microbial pathogens in the food supply. This report finds that the benefits of the new regulations, which are the medical costs and productivity losses that are prevented when foodborne illnesses are averted, will likely exceed the costs, which include spending by firms on sanitation, temperature control, planning and training, and testing. Other, nonregulatory approaches can also improve food safety, such as providing market incentives for pathogen reduction, irradiation, and education and labeling to promote safe food handling and thorough cooking.

  • Economic Burden of Major Foodborne Illnesses Acquired in the United States

    EIB-140, May 12, 2015

    Each year, 1 in 6 people in the United States is sickened by a foodborne illness acquired in the States. ERS provides an overview of recent estimates of the economic burden imposed annually by 15 leading foodborne pathogens.

  • Economic Incentives to Supply Safe Chicken to the National School Lunch Program

    ERR-202, November 24, 2015

    Suppliers of raw chicken to the National School Lunch Program had modestly better food safety performance on Salmonella spp. tests than chicken slaughter establishments supplying the commercial market.

  • Estimated Annual Costs of Campylobacter-Associated Guillain-Barre Syndrome

    AER-756, July 01, 1997

    Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) is an autoimmune reaction that can cause acute neuro-muscular paralysis. Of an estimated 2,628 to 9,575 new U.S. cases with GBS annually, 526 to 3,830 are triggered by infection with Campylobacter, the most frequently isolated cause of foodborne diarrhea. Estimated total annual costs of Campylobacter-associated GBS of $0.2 to $1.8 billion plus previously estimated costs of campylobacteriosis ($1.3 to $6.2 billion) add to total annual costs from Campylobacter of $1.5 to $8.0 billion (1995 dollars). Assuming 55-70 percent of costs are attributable to foodborne sources, costs of campylobacteriosis from food sources ($0.7 to $4.3 billion) and costs of associated GBS ($0.1 to $1.3 billion) combined equal total annual costs of $0.8 to $5.6 billion from foodborne Campylobacter. Reducing Campylobacter in food could prevent up to $5.6 billion in costs annually.

  • FDA Refusals of Imported Food Products by Country and Category, 2005-2013

    EIB-151, March 28, 2016

    Of more than 140,000 FDA violations in food shipments for import in 2005-13, over half were for adulteration (safety, packaging integrity, or sanitation), and 41 percent for misbranding (e.g., misleading labels or those lacking English).

  • Food Loss—Questions About the Amount and Causes Still Remain

    Amber Waves, June 02, 2014

    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.

  • Food Safety Practices and Costs Under the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement

    EIB-173, June 07, 2017

    Interviews with firms participating in an existing food safety program, California's Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, offer insights into what the recent FSMA Produce Rule will mean for the U.S. produce industry.

  • How Much Does It Matter How Sick You Get? Consumers' Responses to Foodborne Disease Outbreaks of Different Severities

    ERR-193, August 27, 2015

    A case study of pathogen-related recalls of cantaloupe in 2011 and 2012 suggests consumers' food purchase responses take into account the relative risk severity of specific pathogens. Information from news media apparently plays a role.

  • Juries Award Higher Amounts for Severe Foodborne Illnesses

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2004

    ERS researchers analyzed 175 foodborne illness lawsuits resolved in court during 1988-97. The researchers found that less than a third of plaintiffs (55 cases) won compensation for their foodborne illnesses. The average compensation, including the cases in which plaintiffs lost as well as won, was $41,888. Injury severity was a major factor affecting an award.

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

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2008

    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.

  • Making Sense of Recent Cost-of-Foodborne-Illness Estimates

    EIB-118, September 30, 2013

    ERS examines estimates of the cost of foodborne illness, focusing on factors that result in different estimates. Factors include the number of pathogens included in estimates and the method of assigning monetary value to the impacts.

  • Patterns in FDA Food Import Refusals Highlight Most Frequently Detected Problems

    Amber Waves, March 28, 2016

    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.

  • Peanut Processing and Sales Hold Steady After Peanut-Product Recalls

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    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.

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

    Amber Waves, November 18, 2013

    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.

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

    Amber Waves, May 26, 2017

    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.

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

    Amber Waves, June 07, 2017

    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.