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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

Foodborne Illnesses Could Cost U.S. $15 billion

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Americans had to dig deep into their wallets to cover costs associated with foodborne illnesses, according to new estimates from the U.S. Department Agriculture.

There were 9.4 million identified cases of foodborne illnesses in 2011 – caused by pathogens like norovirus, listeria and salmonella – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Add up the cost of hospitalization, medication and lost wages due to missing work, and that comes to a total bill of about $15.2 billion.

USDA economist Sandra Hoffman says 95% of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. are caused by just 15 different pathogens. Indeed, she says five pathogens alone are responsible for 84% of the foodborne illnesses across the county.

“Knowing what different pathogens cost gives us an idea of where the biggest problems are and how to focus them,” she said. “Just knowing the number of illnesses isn’t enough because illnesses vary a lot in how serious they are.”

Researchers estimate the vast majority of foodborne illnesses aren’t diagnosed – about 38 million cases – leaving the potential price tag even higher.

Hoffman says data from the USDA report helps draw attention to the need for public investments in state departments of public health and the disease surveillance efforts by the CDC.

“Without those investments, we have no idea how many people are getting sick,” she said. “And without better attention to that, we won’t have a way of knowing what’s causing the illness for those 38 million people.”