I would argue there is no way to really value the loss at least in the human dimension.

money-down-the-drain.jpgToday I was reading Robert Scharff’s article “Economic Burden from Health losses Due to Foodborne Illness in the United Sates” in this month’s Journal of Food Protection.

Scharff’s coast analysis is based upon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s newer estimate that approximately 48,000,000 cases of food-related illness, resulting in 3,000 deaths and 128,000 hospitalizations, occur in the United States annually.

According to Scharff, $51,000,000,000 in annual health-related costs in the basic model (economic costs from foodborne illness include both financial losses due to medical expenditures and lost productivity and lost utility (well-being) due to death) and $77,700,000,000 in the enhanced model (the difference between the two models is that the enhanced model includes a measure for lost quality of life but no measure for own-illness productivity loss). Own-illness productivity loss is omitted because lost productivity from one’s own illness is assumed to be accounted for in the more global lost quality of life value.

Scharff did note, however, that the costs presented did not represent the full economic cost of foodborne illness. Although, he felt that the largest categories of health-related costs were included, the costs of some sequelae, such as congenital toxoplasmosis, thyroid disease, and postinfectious irritable bowel syndrome, were not examined.

Other significant losses, like the costs of foodborne illness to industry and public health agencies were not addressed.

And, the loss of a husband, wife or father or mother, or a child, to food that they ate – what is the real cost of those losses? What are the real costs of living your life with a brain injury or being unable to walk? Scharff’s numbers are important, but not the only numbers that are important.