"We think what we are measuring is more realistic, as complete eradication is a highly unlikely outcome for any policy," Roe said. "We also are quite certain that our estimates of consumers' willingness to pay would be higher than what the USDA would calculate using its cost-of-illness approach."
Roe conducted the study with Mario Teisl of the University of Maine. The research is published in a recent issue of the journal Food Policy.
The researchers say their proposed method takes into account important variables that the average cost-benefit analysis doesn't measure, such as pain, suffering and worry, as well as food-borne illness that doesn't do any economic damage to an individual their example is a case of food poisoning on a Friday night that resolves before the work week begins. Their estimate also accounts for human behavior: Some consumers will opt not to eat what they buy, will overcook it to ensure they kill any pathogens, or simply do not get sick even when they eat bad food.
In contrast, current methods of cost-benefit analysis involve translating an improvement in food safety into numbers: specifically, reductions in deaths and illnesses linked to a pathogen. Costs factored into the assessment might include a co-pay for a visit to the doctor and lost wages, as well as the economic costs associated with death say, the projected income not earned when a life is cut short.
For example, to reach its $446 million estimate to eradicate E. coli cases that produce Shiga toxin and can lead to kidney damage, the USDA took the 73,480 cases of contamination that occur each year and assigned a formula-derived dollar amount to those cases to arrive at the benefit figure.
"The projections will estimate how many fewer people will die, how many fewer will get sick, and how do we assign benefit values to those improvements in the huma
|Contact: Brian Roe|
Ohio State University