CFAES Give Today
Family and Consumer Sciences

Ohio State University Extension


Foodborne Pathogens

Impacts of Foodborne Pathogens on Ohio Citizens

Foodborne illnesses adversely affect the health of Ohio citizens and are costly to the State's economy. Health care costs associated with the care of foodborne illnesses are sky rocketing and the impact is being felt in Ohio, as well as the whole country.

The cost of foodborne illness in the United States is now estimated to be up to $77.7 billion a year, according to an analysis by Ohio State University researcher Dr. Robert Scharff published in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of Food Protection.

Scharff's analysis, "Economic Burden from Health Losses Due to Foodborne Illness in the United States," offers two economic cost estimates. Scharff arrived at the $77.7 billion figure by including values for medical costs, productivity losses, mortality, and pain and suffering.  Because there is no consensus over how to place a value on pain and suffering, Scharff estimates the cost of foodborne illness without this factor at $51 billion.

The manner in which people handle and prepare food is a major reason why foodborne illness occurs.  People must alter their food handling behavior, but they must first have the knowledge and skills that are known to protect food from contamination with pathogens before they have the capacity to change their behavior. Education provides the knowledge and skills Ohio citizens need to reduce incidence of foodborne illness and to reduce the impact on health care costs.

Top five pathogens contributing to
domestically acquired foodborne illnesses
Pathogen Estimated number of illnesses 90% Credible Interval %
Norovirus 5,461,731 3,227,078–8,309,480 58
Salmonella, nontyphoidal 1,027,561 644,786–1,679,667 11
Clostridium perfringens 965,958 192,316–2,483,309 10
Campylobacter spp. 845,024 337,031–1,611,083 9
Staphylococcus aureus 241,148 72,341–529,417 3
Subtotal     91

(Table source:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID), Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases (DFWED);

Fact Sheets