The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) updated its foodborne illness cost calculator last month.
The cost calculator can be used to generate estimates of the costs of illness and premature death attributed to infection with Campylobacter from food sources and from all sources of Salmonella, both shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 shiga toxin-producing E. coli, and Listeria.
In addition to describing the assumptions and calculations behind ERS cost estimates for the five pathogens, ERS uses the cost calculator to describe alternative epidemiologic and cost assumptions used by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
According to the ERS, “Users can examine the impact of different assumptions on cost estimates and risk rankings. They can change assumptions to reflect any specific information about disease incidence, medical costs, productivity losses, or disutility. By changing the case-number assumption, users can calculate the costs of foodborne illness for a particular [s]tate or region, or for a particular foodborne illness outbreak. A user could even use the Calculator to predict his/her own potential costs of foodborne illness.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1,397,187 cases of Salmonella occur annually in the U.S. The ERS estimates the cost of those illnesses, which includes medical costs due to illness, the value of time lost from work due to nonfatal illness, and value of premature death, at $2,649,413,401 in 2009 dollars. The estimate does not include such costs as chronic complications, disutility for nonfatal illness, pain and suffering, travel expenses, or other costs.
Users can enter their own cost-estimates for medical expenses–including non-prescription and prescription medications, office visits to health care providers, ER visits, and outpatient visits as well as costs for lost productivity. While the ERS does not give disutility for nonfatal illness a value, the FDA assigns a value of $2,100 and users can enter their own estimates into the calculator.
The CDC estimates that 1,397,187 cases of Salmonella occur annually in the U.S. The ERS estimates the costs of those illnesses to total $2,649,413,401
Current ERS estimates put the following values on Salmonella cases:
– $52 for an person who did not visit a physician but survived
– $533 for an person who visited a physician and survived
– $11, 726 for a person who was hospitalized and survived
– $5,610,652 for a person who visited a healthcare provider or was hospitalized and died
E. coli O157
The CDC estimates that 73,480 cases of shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 infection occur annually in the U.S. The ERS estimates the cost of those illnesses at $478,381,766.
Current ERS estimates put the following values on E. coli O157 cases:
– $30 for a person who did not visit a physician and survived
– $556 for a person who visited a physician and survived
– $7,767 for a person who was hospitalized and survived
– $43,733 for a person who was hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and survived
– $6,099,289 for a person who was hospitalized with HUS, had end stage renal disease (ESRD) and survived
– $4,661,394 for a person who did not have HUS and died
– $7,205,419 for a person who had HUS and died
The ERS estimates the cost of hospitalization for a patient with HUS but not ESRD at $42,802.41 and does not factor in disutility costs for nonfatal HUS cases. The FDA estimates a disutility cost for nonfatal HUS cases at $22,600. Like with Salmonella cases, users can enter their own estimates into the calculator.
In explaining how the Economic Research Service uses the cost calculator, it states, “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.”
Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 estimates are the only cost estimates available online at this time.