The USDA-Economic Research Service (ERS) has released an updated, interactive web-based tool to help wrap your arms around the cost of food-borne illnesses due to specific food-borne pathogens. Like all cost estimates, the ERS estimates include assumptions about disease incidence, outcome severity, and the level of medical, productivity, and disutility costs.
Changes to any of these assumptions could change the cost estimates and, as a result, change the way policymakers rank risks, prioritize spending, and formulate food safety policies.
The updated ERS cost estimate for Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157 (STEC O157) was recently added to the calculator. Users can now review and change the assumptions behind the ERS cost estimates for either STEC O157 or Salmonella.
The assumptions that can be modified include the annual number of cases, the distribution of cases by severity, the use or costs of medical care, the amount or value of time lost from work, the costs of premature death, and the disutility costs for nonfatal cases. Users can also update the cost estimate for inflation for any year from 1997 to 2007.