Assessing the Costs and Benefits of Pathogen Reduction

There has been increasing concern in recent years over the human health risks posed by microbial pathogens-bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses-in the food supply. Each year an estimated 6 million to 33 million cases of foodborne disease occur in the United States, and up to 9,000 people die. USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) has estimated that diseases caused by seven major pathogens alone may cause between $6.6 billion and $37.1 billion annually in medical costs and productivity losses. These estimated social costs of foodborne illness, while suggesting the extent of the burden of these illnesses on society, are only a starting point. Policymakers are also interested in how efforts to prevent foodborne illness can reduce this burden, and the relationship between the benefits of safer food and the costs of achieving this goal. Ideally, the costs of regulations and other efforts to control foodborne disease and to reduce pathogens will be less than the benefits of reduced medical costs and productivity losses. Most government regulations have some sort of economic effect on producers and consumers. Regulations governing how foods are produced can raise production costs. Regulations require resource commitments, which, in turn, may raise costs and food prices. On the other hand, regulations that improve the safety of the food supply benefit consumers by reducing the number and/ or severity of foodborne illnesses. Economic analysis can play an important role in the public decisionmaking process by identifying and comparing the benefits and costs of food safety policies. Currently, all regulations with an annual economic impact of over $100 million are required by Executive Order to have undergone a cost-benefit analysis to show that the expected benefits of the regulation exceed the expected costs. The cost-benefit analysis will also explain why the planned regulatory alternative is preferred. One such regulation is the 1996 Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) pathogen reduction rule for livestock and poultry slaughter and processing establishments. ERS analyzed this rule to estimate the economic costs and benefits of this new approach to meat and poultry inspection

Issue Date:
May 05 1999
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Record Identifier:
Published in:
Food Review: The Magazine of Food Economics, Volume 22, Issue 2
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 Record created 2017-12-19, last modified 2018-01-22

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