Cost of foodborne illness varies by US state

An understanding of the costs associated with foodborne illnesses is important to policy makers for prioritizing resources and assessing whether proposed interventions improve social welfare.

sorenne.moneyAt the national level, measured costs have been used by federal food safety regulatory agencies in regulatory impact analyses. However, when costs differ across states, use of national cost-of-illness values for state-based interventions will lead to biased estimates of intervention effectiveness.

In this study, the costs of foodborne illness at the state level were estimated. Using a more conservative economic model, the average cost per case ranged from $888 (90% credible interval [CI], $537 to $1,419) in West Virginia to $1,766 (90% CI, $1,231 to $2,588) in the District of Columbia. A less conservative model generated average costs per case of $1,505 (90% CI, $557 to $2,836) in Kentucky to $2,591 (90% CI, $857 to $5,134) in Maryland. Aggregated across the states, the average national cost of foodborne illness was estimated as $55.5 billion (90% CI, $33.9 to $83.3 billion) using the conservative model and $93.2 billion (90% CI, $33.0 to $176.3 billion) using the enhanced model.

State estimates for the annual cost of foodborne illness

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 6, June 2015, pp. 1064-1243, pp. 1064-1071(8), DOI:

Scharff, Robert L.

Is food safety auditing about safety or money? GFSI-light?

Irwin Pronk of HACCP By Design (right, pretty much as shown) writes in this contributed piece:

If you are a food processor or retailer and have been insisting that your suppliers become GFSI compliant (Global Food Safety Initiative), beware. Recent information has shown that some certification bodies (auditing firms) are playing loose and fast and plants have been choosing certification bodies based on price alone, compromising the integrity of audits.

When searching for an auditing firm, plants have been asking for two or three quotes. In providing these quotes, some certification bodies are strictly following the Scheme Holders’ (e.g. SQF, BRC or FS22000) formulae for calculating the number of audit days but other, more principled auditing firms realize these too simple calculations do not leave them sufficient time to audit as they should. Thus they add additional time resulting in a higher price. In evaluating the differing quotes, plant management all too often choose the least expensive option knowing they will save money. More importantly, they realize the less time the auditor has, the fewer non-conformances they will find. The result: GFSI-light.

Some auditing firms are becoming known for their lower cost quotes, and the result is an inadequate audit, inadequate control systems and the risk of a facility, process and product not as effectively managed as the customer had expected.

Some food processors have wisely established a relationship with one certification body, selecting a specific group of auditors, and requiring their suppliers use the approved certification body. These firms are finding more consistent and rigorous audits. Be sure you are getting what you are asking for. Do not risk GFSI-light.

Irwin Pronk has worked with over 300 companies to implement food safety and quality assurance programs over the past 15 years. He lives in Fergus, which is near Guelph (that’s in Canada).?

Thank you for barfing; no money for US food safety changes

The ink hasn’t dried on the new U.S. food safety bill – because it won’t be signed until Jan. 2011 – but many are already saying there’s no money to implement the proposed changes, and Republicans are going to make sure of it.

I still don’t care; it’s all political claptrap.

Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Food and Drug Administration, told the Washington Post today the number of cases of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. does not justify the $1.4 billion the new law is estimated to cost over the first five years, adding,

"I would not identify it as something that will necessarily be zeroed out, but it is quite possible it will be scaled back if it is significant overreach. We still have a food supply that’s 99.99 percent safe. No one wants anybody to get sick, and we should always strive to make sure food is safe. But the case for a $1.4 billion expenditure isn’t there."

Iowa Republican Rep. Tom Latham said the same thing a few days ago.

“We simply don’t have the money to pay for it.”

FDA also released a Food Bill For Dummies guide to the proposed changes a couple of days ago.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) gives FDA a mandate to pursue a system that is based on science and addresses hazards from farm to table, putting greater emphasis on preventing food-borne illness. The reasoning is simple: The better the system handles producing, processing, transporting, and preparing foods, the safer our food supply will be.

I thought FDA was already supposed to do this.

The legislation, which FDA experts say transforms the food safety system, includes the following major provisions:

* Food facilities must have a written preventive controls plan that spells out the possible problems that could affect the safety of their products. This plan would outline steps that a food facility would take to prevent or significantly minimize the likelihood of those problems occurring.

* FDA must establish science-based standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables. These standards must consider not only man-made risks to fresh produce safety, but also naturally-occurring hazards—such as those posed by the soil, animals, and water in the growing area.

* FDA is directed to increase the frequency of inspections. High-risk domestic facilities must receive an initial inspection within the next five years and no less than every three years after that. During the next year, FDA must inspect at least 600 foreign food facilities and double the number of those inspections every year for the next five years. With the availability of resources, FDA will build the inspection capacity to meet these important goals.

* FDA is authorized to mandate a recall of unsafe food if the food company fails to do it voluntarily. The law also provides a more flexible standard for administrative detention (the procedure FDA uses to keep suspect food from being moved); allows FDA to suspend the registration of a food facility associated with unsafe food, thereby preventing it from distributing food; and directs the agency to improve its ability to track both domestic and imported foods.

In testimony before Congress in March, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said that user fees collected from food companies and farms would pay for most of the increased inspections and other costs associated with the legislation. But a provision for user fees in the House version was cut from the final language, leaving the government to foot the entire cost.

Mark McClellan, who served as FDA commissioner from 2002 to 2004, said that without additional funding, Congress is unfairly raising expectations, adding,

"It’s relatively easy to pass legislation that the FDA needs to do more things. It’s very hard to back that up with resources. And problems may be compounded by legislation like this, which raises expectations that the FDA should be doing this, that or other things."

Producers, processors, retailers, restaurants, mere mortals, take care of food safety. And if you do, tell the world about it, market it, promote microbiologically-safe food. People care about this stuff. Politicians, not so much.

Bye-bye BITES-l

That’s host Sammy Maudlin (right), as Dave Thomas’ drink-loving Captain Kangaroo answers the phone during the 1978 Second City TV (SCTV) satire of TV telethons.

Once a year, I ask for money to support the 2-3 X daily distribution of food safety news to tens of thousands, with consecutive posts dating back to 1994.

The funding is no longer there.

So it’s time to do something else.

We will continue to blog about food safety developments, and be relevant rather than repetitive. Tonight will be the last bites-l listserv posting. I may revisit things in a couple of months, but for now, it’s time to do something else.

Food safety needs new messages, new media; bites and barfblog need you

New messages, new media. That’s become sortof our mantra here at because, as the Washington Post reiterated this morning,

“Between 1998 and 2004, illnesses reported by CDC that were caused by E. Coli, listeria, campylobacter and a few other bacteria decreased by 25 to 30 percent, perhaps because of improvements in the handling of meat and eggs. Since about 2004, however, the rate of these illnesses has basically remained steady.”

There’s lots of new media toys out there, but it’s the high-tech version of signs that say, “Employees Must Wash Hands.” Reposting press releases – especially in the absence of critical analysis — is a waste of bandwidth and resources. And there is no evidence it results in fewer sick people.

Sponsorship opportunities are available for,, and the bites-l listserv (as well as the infosheets and videos; how about a movie?). ??????In addition to the public exposure – why not stick your company logo on the bites-l newsletter that directs electronic readers to your home site or whatever you’re flogging that week — and reaching a desired audience, you can receive custom food safety news and analysis. We’ve also resurrected the food safety risk analysis team – assessment, management and communication – and offer 24/7 availability and insanely rapid turnaround times. If your group has a food safety issue — short-term or long-term — work with us.

The money is used to support the on-going expenses of the news-gathering and distribution activities, and to develop the next generation of high school, undergraduate and graduate students who will integrate science and communication skills to deliver compelling food safety messages using a variety of media. Research, training and outreach are all connected in our food safety world.

If you have a sponsorship idea, let’s explore it. Feeling altruistic? Click on the donate button in the upper right corner of or on Want to just send a check? Make it out to: K-State Olathe Innovation Campus, Inc.???18001 W. 106th St., Ste 130???Olathe, KS 66061 and send to Terri Bogina??????.

Pollan gets $25,000 to speak with students?

I figure the Chinese–funded U.S. bailout has at least been good for Denis Leary, Howie Long, and the dude who does dirtiest jobs cause they all got gigs selling American cars.

What’s worse is that sustainably-minded Michael Pollan is stiffing students for $25,000 to come and share his menu planner.

As reported in Feedstuffs today, Pollan spoke at the University of Wisconsin-Madison last week, some farmers and aggie types challenged Pollan’s, uh, views of agriculture, and that Pollan was paid  $25,000 to speak.

Pollan has a university gig like me, although I’m not sure how he got it. My cv or resume is on-line and anyone can see it. Today I got two requests to speak: one with the Missouri public health folks, one with some food safety conference in Chicago. In both cases, I said, cover my expenses, cause otherwise I’m taking money away from undergraduate and graduate students, money that I have to raise. But no fees.

Why anyone would waste $25,000 on Pollan is baffling.

Restaurant money could make you sick is reporting that Swiss researchers have found that flu germs can live on paper money up to 17 days.

Past research at the University of Georgia discovered that dangerous E.coli bacteria can easily survive on the loose change in your pocket: anywhere from seven to eleven days on pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

Chirag Bhatt, former director of health inspections for the city of Houston and current food safety director for, said,

"When a food worker touches money, then touches food, there is a clear danger of spreading germs. … For the average person, this is just another reminder of how important it is to wash our hands frequently to safeguard our health."

Raw milk: it’s all about the money

I admire Cindy Westover for her honesty.

Cindy told the Brattleboro Reformer yesterday that her family swung open its barn doors at Great Brook Farm over the weekend to celebrate its decision to start selling raw milk in the new milkhouse farm store, to give her family a greater margin on every gallon sold, and for dairy farmers, every extra dollar helps.

The story talks about the differences between state laws in New Hampshire and Vermont, with Westover saying the Vermont raw milk law — apparently a variation of don’t ask don’t tell — makes it harder for farmers, adding,

"It’s too bad Vermont has that rule because if Vermont and New Hampshire dairy farmers go out of business, it will change everything in the two states. The state should do what it can to help farmers survive."