Foodborne Illness and Its Economic Costs

foodborne illness3Foodborne illness is a serious public health problem in the United States. There are approximately 48 million new cases each year, causing 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths [5,6].

Cases of foodborne illness come with heavy economic costs, totaling approximately $51-$77.7 billion each year [6]. These costs include medical and hospital bills, lost work productivity, costs of lawsuits, legal fees, and a loss of product sales [1,3].

Foodborne illness also causes emotional tolls and burdens on family members when caring for friends and relatives or when experiencing the loss of a loved one [3].

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    To prevent microbial contamination at various stages of food production, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011. The new law provides mandates that require comprehensive and science-based preventive controls across the food supply. Through FSMA, the government and food industry are working together to create a new prevention-based food safety system.

    Microbial risk due to improper food preparation and handling by consumers in the home is another preventable cause of foodborne. Health educators across the Nation have engaged in food safety education activities focused on the consumer. Health and consumer food safety educators work to increase the public’s awareness and knowledge about food safety practices and the risk of foodborne illness, and to promote safe food handling practices. However, there are several areas of concern related to consumer food safety education interventions. Gaps include a lack of rigorous and evidence-based evaluation of educational program activities and a need to improve research designs by ensuring that interventions focus on the specific needs of the target audience and address common influencers of consumer food safety practices, such as specific knowledge, perceived susceptibility, and access to resources [2]. Consumer food safety educators can use this guide to learn about how to increase evaluation efforts and adopt more rigorous and thorough evaluation approaches that will help them improve their programs.

    1. Buzby, J., Roberts T, Jordan Lin CT, Roberts, T, & MacDonald, J. (1996). Bacterial foodborne disease: medical costs and productivity Losses. United States Department of Agriculture –Economic Research Service (USDA–ERS). Agricultural Economics Report No. AER741. Retrieved from:
    2. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). White Paper on Consumer Research and Food Safety Education. (DRAFT).
    3. Nyachuba, D. G. (2010). Foodborne illness: is it on the rise? Nutrition Reviews, 68(5), 257-269.
    4. Sanders, J. (1994). The program evaluation standards: how to assess evaluations of educational programs (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    5. Scallan, E, PM Griffen, FJ Angulo, RV Tauxe, & RM Hoekstra. (2011). Foodborne illness acquired in the United States-unspecified agents. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 17, 16-22.
    6. Scharff. RL. (2012). Economic burden from health losses due to illness in the United States. Journal of Food Protection. 75, 123-131.