High cost of foodborne illnesses: OARDC researcher provides state-by-state breakdown

Public health policymakers view the work of Robert Scharff, right, as invaluable when determining how to direct tight resources to fight foodborne illnesses.

Public health policymakers view the work of Robert Scharff, right, as invaluable when determining how to direct tight resources to fight foodborne illnesses.

Foodborne illnesses cost Ohio up to $2.9 billion every year. In other states, such costs range from just $181 million all the way to $12 billion, according to a 2015 study by Robert Scharff, economist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Costs fluctuate between states for a variety of reasons, including population, cost of medical care, climate and other factors, Scharff said. Those variations can have a significant impact on local decision making.

Scharff’s Journal of Food Protection study is a first-of-its-kind economic analysis designed to offer public health authorities detailed information to help evaluate the cost-effectiveness of food-safety education efforts and how best to prioritize resources.

“Take an illness from a pathogen like Vibrio,” Scharff said. “It’s associated with seafood, particularly raw seafood in summer. States with higher shellfish consumption — those in coastal areas — have a higher incidence, and so it makes sense for them to devote more resources to battling it.”

Scharff’s analyses have gotten the attention of public health authorities nationwide.

“Scharff’s work has been indispensable to our efforts,” said Sandra B. Eskin, director of food safety with The Pew Charitable Trusts. “His estimates of the economic impact of these illnesses — considered both on a nationwide and state-by-state basis — help make the case that the benefits from policies aimed at preventing food safety problems clearly outweigh costs.”

ESSENTIALS
Robert Scharff’s study, “State Estimates for the Annual Cost of Foodborne Illness,” provides both conservative cost estimates — following the model typically used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture — as well as higher estimates that include loss of quality of life, which is the model used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Using those models, the costs related to foodborne illnesses in Ohio are estimated to be:
  • $1,039 to $1,666 per case
  • $156 to $250 per resident, annually
  • $1.8 billion to $2.9 billion in total annual costs

More: go.osu.edu/fdillcost

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.