This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) released a report estimating the annual cost of foodborne illnesses to the economy, and the estimate is staggering. In all, the cost of the illnesses comes to more than $15.6 billion annually. To put that into perspective, the entire USDA budget for food safety was about $1.014 billion in 2014.
The $15.6 billion calculation is derived from data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding disease rates, as well as peer-reviewed research and analysis of medical costs, lost wages, lost productivity, medical bills, and premature deaths resulting from the 15 pathogens that account for about 95 percent of foodborne illnesses and deaths .
According to the ERS analysis, the most costly foodborne infection is Salmonella. Cases of salmonellosis were estimated to cost $3,6 billion. Every year, more than a million people become sick from Salmonella, with nearly 20,000 becoming ill enough to be hospitalized.
In second place is Listeria, which costs Americans about $2.8 billion every year. Fewer people become sick with Listeriosis – only about 1,600 annually – but the medical costs and the costs for premature deaths are much high for those infected with Listeria monocytogenes. The medical costs just for mothers and infants who end up hospitalized with Listeriosis come to $27.8 million, and the cost of premature deaths associated with Listeria infection comes to more than $2 billion.
In third place among foodborne pathogens is norovirus, which costs the U.S. economy more than $2.2 billion every year. Norovirus is very contagious, and sickens more than five million people annually. Unfortunately, most who contract norovirus never see a doctor, but of those who do, more than 14,000 people are hospitalized every year, and that alone costs the economy more than $355 million.
The fourth most costly foodborne illness is Campylobacter infections, which cost the U.S. economy more than $1.9 billion every year. Campylobacter sickens more than 845,000 Americans every single year. The annual cost of premature deaths from this pathogen comes to $748 million.
Rounding out the top five are infections from E. coli O157:H7 and STEC (Shiga toxin-producing non-O157:H7 E.), which cost the economy nearly $300 million every single year. Though only about 2,000 people are hospitalized for E. Coli every year, the medical costs alone come to about $19.3 million.
As you can see, foodborne illnesses can be very expensive, and too often, the victim of the contamination too often bears the costs. Most such illnesses can be prevented at the food processing level, and the victim of such negligence should never have to bear the burden of the costs alone. If you or someone you love has become ill, see a medical professional as soon as possible. If any type of foodborne illness, whether it’s one of the top five above, or another, please contact the Texas Food Poisoning Injury Lawyers at Hill Law Firm today to protect your rights.