The costs associated with tainted foods are much higher than previously thought, according a new survey by Make Our Food Safe, a coalition of public health and consumer affairs groups.
"We need to go to war against these deaths," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn), who has sponsored a bill to increase food inspection, which she argues is necessary to reduce the number of preventable deaths. "The illnesses represent real sickness, real pain, and real death," she said. "We're not talking about roads, bridges, or parks. We're talking about people's lives."
According to the study, the full economic cost to the United States is $152 billion annually; 82 million cases are reported each year, including 5,000 deaths.
The new calculations, which update a 15-year-old study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, include indirect effects of food contamination. The earlier study estimated the costs at $6.9 billion annually. The new study is based on analyzing data from the Centers for Disease Control, other medical costs, and quality of life costs, including death, pain, suffering, and loss of productivity.
"If people can't engage on the humanitarian or the public impact," DeLauro said, "maybe they'll listen to the economic impact."
DeLauro introduced the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 last year to address the issue.She said that she wants food-inspection functions of other agencies folded into the Food and Drug Administration, then wants the FDA broken into a Food Agency and Drug Agency
Just this week, a brand of spinach dip was recalled because of the possibility of salmonella poisoning, and yesterday, a California beef company recalled ground beef due to E. Coli. In 2006, an E Coli outbreak in spinach was reported in the United States, resulting in three deaths. In 2006, threats of salmonella caused a large almond recall.