Paying for food safety
At the federal level, it’s easy to quantify the cost of foodborne illness as measured in terms of death and illness. But it’s a lot harder to quantify benefits of stronger food safety regulations.
That’s where UMaine economist Mario Teisl comes in.
In an article recently published in the journal Food Policy, Teisl and Brian Roe of Ohio State University propose an alternative to the traditional cost-of-illness approach. The cost-of-illness approach is straightforward — it measures such tangible values as lost work time, cost of medical treatment and loss of life. But it doesn’t take into account things that are a little harder to gauge, such as pain, suffering, worry or loss of leisure time. This means that current regulation methods may undervalue the benefits of stronger food safety measures.
Through a national survey that centered on hot dog and hamburger consumption, Teisl and Roe found that consumers would be willing to pay more for safety-enhanced products — especially if the increased cost was relatively low and the decrease in probability of illness and contamination high.