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Safer Food Is More Important To Americans Than Government Analyses Suggest

February 8, 2011: 12:27 PM EST

A national survey of 3,511 people has found that Americans would be willing to pay a dollar per person each year – a total of $305 million – to achieve a ten percent reduction in the risk of buying, for example, hamburger tainted with E. coli bacteria. The researchers acted on the assumption that government regulators could better assess the value of improving food safety if they took into account the fact that consumers generally want to avoid sickness, even if it costs a little more. The USDA uses a “cost-of-illness approach to value reductions in morbidity,” the researchers note. But that understates the benefits of improved food safety measures by ignoring hidden costs such as pain, suffering and worry. The survey used a hypothetical food-choice scheme to measure consumer willingness to pay for food safety improvements.

Mario F. Teisla and Brian Roe, "Consumer willingness to pay to reduce the probability of retail foodborne pathogen contamination", Food Policy, February 08, 2011, © Elsevier Ltd.
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