Publications

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Tracing the Costs and Benefits of Improvements in Food Safety

    AER-791, November 16, 2000

    The level and distribution of the costs and benefits of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulatory program for meat and poultry change dramatically once economywide effects are included in the analysis. Using a Social Accounting Matrix Model, we find that reduced premature deaths had a strong positive effect on household income, with economywide benefits almost double initial benefits. Contrary to expectations, reduced medical expenses resulted in a decrease in household income, while HACCP costs resulted in an increase. Net economywide benefits were slightly larger than initial net benefits, with poor households receiving a proportionally smaller share of the increased benefits than nonpoor because of their weak ties to the economy. Our SAM analysis provides policymakers useful information about who ultimately benefits from reduced foodborne illnesses and who ultimately pays the costs of food safety regulation. This analysis also sheds light on a number of issues central to cost-benefit analysis involving health, highlighting the danger of equating changes in income with changes in well-being.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Tracking Foodborne Pathogens from Farm to Table: Data Needs to Evaluate Control Options

    MP-1532, December 01, 1995

    The proceedings from the January 9-10, 1995 conference in Washington, DC, held by members of Regional Research Project NE-165, a group of more than 70 economists at land grant universities and government agencies conducting research on the food system. Topics covered include human foodborne disease, susceptibility, and food consumption data; tracking foodborne pathogen data from farm to retail; integrating data for risk management; and a policy roundtable concerning how food safety data and analysis can help in program and policy design.