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By the numbers: $100,000,000,000+

Consumer Reports News: June 23, 2011 01:58 PM

The estimated annual cost of food borne illnesses in the United States, according to a study by Ohio State University researcher Robert L. Scharff funded by the Pew Memorial Trust.

The report says about a quarter of that total is attributable to produce, which can carry salmonella, E. coli (shown at right) and other illness causing agents. The $100 billion+ total includes the sum of medical costs (hospital services, physician services, and drugs) and quality-of-life losses (deaths, pain, suffering, and functional disability). The average cost for different illnesses vary a great deal. For example, each incident of Listeria monocytogenes, a particularly nasty pathogen believed to be responsible for hundreds of deaths each year, can cost more than $1 million. At the other end of the scale is Bacillus cereus, which typically causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which costs only about $200 or less per incident.

Bob Williams

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