New Data on the Costs of Foodborne Illnesses: Nearly 9 Million Sick Americans, and More than $15 Billion a Year

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Just how much are foodborne illnesses costing Americans?

According to data released by the USDA, the numbers are staggering. Every year, more than 8.9 million Americans will be sickened by 15 major pathogens including salmonella, e coli and listeria. These pathogens account for 95 percent of the foodborne illnesses and deaths, with Norovirus the culprit in more than 5.4 million cases each year.

More than 53,000 Americans will visit hospitals as a result of a foodborne illness, and close to 2,400 will lose their lives from a food-related infection.

Among the data released by the USDA, the total annual cost to U.S. taxpayers in medical care and other expenses related to foodborne illnesses are more than $15.6 billion. “For each pathogen, the data provide a range of potential costs, taking into account such factors as associated outpatient and inpatient expenditures for medical care and lost income,” reports Food Safety News.

According to the data, these are the top pathogens and the cost to Americans:

Campylobacter (all species) – $1,928,787,166

Clostridium perfringens – $342,668,498

Cryptosporidium parvum – $51,813,652

Cyclospora cayetanensis – $2,301,423

Escherichia coli O157 – $271,418,690

Non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli – $27,364,561

Listeria monocytogenes – $2,834,444,202

Norovirus – $2,255,827,318

Salmonella (nontyphoidal) – $3,666,600,031

Shigella (all species) – $137,965,962

Toxoplasma gondii – $3,303,984,478

Vibrio parahaemolyticus – $40,682,312

Vibrio vulnificus – $319,850,293

Vibrio (all other non-cholera species) – $142,086,209

Yersinia enterocolitica – $278,111,168 

“Economic costs studies, however, are not the whole story,” reports Food Safety News. “They do not include food industry costs, including any loss of consumer confidence in a brand or a business, associated recall expenses, or charges stemming from litigation, nor do they include the cost to taxpayers for local, state, and federal health agencies that respond to outbreaks.”

And these cost estimates are also lower than other recent numbers, says FSN. “From 1999 to 2010, CDC estimated there were 76 million cases of foodborne illnesses annually, sending 325,000 to hospitals and resulting in 5,000 deaths.”

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