For years, conservative estimates of losses from food borne illnesses in the US have placed the figure as low as $6.9 billion, and as high as $35 billion every year. As a new report into food safety in the country shows, those figures are barely the tip of the iceberg. The report by the Produce Safety Project says that the actual cost of food borne illnesses annually amounts to a staggering $157 billion every year.
Injury lawyers in Atlanta have a close connection with the food safety issue. After all, it was the appalling hygiene and safety conditions at a peanut processing plant in our own Georgia that caused nuts to be contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria, and led to a nationwide epidemic that killed several people, and injured hundreds of Americans. The peanut butter salmonella epidemic was just one among several that have come out since then, and which continue to crop up at nauseating intervals.
Every year, according to research conducted by the Produce Safety Project, more than 76 million Americans suffer from a food borne illness. The researchers calculated the costs of these illnesses by adding not just the medical and hospital costs that the patient incurred, but also the lost quality of life as a result of the illness.They arrived at the total figure of $157 billion every year from these illnesses.
Earlier estimates only considered documented food borne illnesses, but a large majority of food poisoning cases in the country go unreported. Besides, federal agencies consider only a few select organisms like the E. coli or Salmonella organisms in their estimates, but ignore the large number of outbreaks traced to other kinds of microorganisms.
Food safety in the country continues to be a hot button issue, with too many glaring loopholes currently in the system. Food safety is not the responsibility of any single federal agency, and therein lies part of the problem. The responsibilities are divided among the Food and Drug Administration, the US Department of Agriculture and other agencies. There are far too many cracks in the system through which contaminated ingredients and products can slip through. When an epidemic does break out, it is difficult to trace the source, considering the complexities of the food supply chain in which different ingredients sourced from farms all over the country, make it to a single product.
We hope these new figures push our lawmakers into passing long pending food safety legislation.