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Food-borne Illnesses in U.S. Cost $152B Annually
Date:3/3/2010

Report urges Congress to pass vigorous food-safety legislation

WEDNESDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) -- Food-borne illnesses cost the United States an estimated $152 billion each year in health-related expenses, much more than previously thought, a new report contends.

"These costs are significantly more than previous official estimates, and it demonstrates the serious burden that food-borne illness places on society," Sandra Eskin, director of the Food Safety Campaign at the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C., said during a Tuesday press conference.

These health-related costs include physician services, hospital services, medicines and also quality-of-life losses, such as deaths, pain, suffering and disability.

Every year, an estimated 76 million Americans are sickened by contaminated food and 5,000 of these people die, according to federal statistics.

Although most of these of costs are due to unidentified germs, infections from well-known pathogens play a large role. For example, costs related to campylobacter exceed $18.8 billion annually; costs linked to salmonella are estimated at $14.6 billion; and costs related to listeria are $8.8 billion, according to the report.

The majority of food-borne illnesses are caused by produce, which are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Thirty-nine percent of E. coli outbreaks were due to produce regulated by the FDA, the report said.

According to the report, California, Texas, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania have the highest costs related to food-borne illness, ranging from $6.7 billion to $18.6 billion each year.

The report was based on federal government sources using the same statistical methods used by the FDA, report author Robert L. Scharff, an assistant professor in the Department of Consumer Sciences at Ohio State University, said during the teleconference.

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