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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Food-Borne Illnesses Cost US Billions

While we can't put a cost on the death toll food-borne illnesses cost thousands of families in this country each year, it appears we can put a number on how much it costs us financially. According to a report by the consumer food safety group, Produce Safety Project, it costs the US $152 billion annually. This is vastly higher than the $35 billion the Agriculture Department said food borne illnesses cost in 1997.

The Produce Safety Project report comes as the US Senate is considering legislation to require more government inspections of food manufacturers and give the Food and Drug Administration more authority to order recalls. The House has already passed a similar measure.

Food-Borne Illness Statistics

According to the government, each year 76 million people are sickened and around 5000 die as a result of food-borne illnesses like E. coli and salmonella. This includes the recent outbreaks that have made headlines, such as the recalls of peppers, peanuts, and spinach. The 2008-2009 recall of peanuts due to salmonella being found in products in 46 states was the largest recall in recent history. Over 700 people were sickened as a result of that contaminated product.

More recently, there have been recalls of salami, onion soup mix, raw cookie dough, and Eggo frozen waffles.

Financial Cost Data

The financial cost of food-borne pathogens was analyzed by an Ohio State University assistant professor of consumer sciences and former FDA economist. The economic losses of this study included the costs of ongoing and emergency care, pain and suffering, and death. This is a broader set of economic data than was previously looked at.

The handful of pathogens examined by the study author all cause cramping, diarrhea, and fever within 12 to 72 hours of contamination. Most people will recover within a week of becoming ill, but serious illnesses including seizures, coma, and paralysis can occur if there is no medical treatment.

The conclusion of this study is that food-borne illnesses are a "serious burden to our society." One US representative said that the high cost is "shocking" and that if people will not find solutions based purely on humanitarian grounds, maybe they will on economic ones.

If you or a loved one has become ill from eating contaminated food, please contact the Cochran Firm to speak with our experienced defective product attorneys. We serve clients nationwide.

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posted by Benjamin A. Irwin at 7:55 AM

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