If you eat a bad mussel or an undercooked burger, you might find yourself vomiting and under the weather for days. It's miserable -- and if you're elderly, a small child or immuno-compromised, potentially lethal. But what's the cumulative economic impact of all these bouts of food poisoning across America? According to a new study by Robert Scharff of Ohio State University, it's over $77 billion in the U.S. alone, every year.
This new figure is actually a significant downward revision for Scharff's last tabulation of $152 billion, and reflects better data from the Center For Disease Control. But it's still almost twice the annual cost of the common cold. And it's roughly as much as the total annual cost of influenza in America.
This parity is especially striking when you consider that the flu affects significantly more people than food poisoning each year. The CDC estimates that 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die, each year, from food poisoning -- whereas more than 200,000 are hospitalized for the flu in a typical season.