Foodborne Illnesses / Listeria /

The Economic Impact of Listeria Infections

The overall cost estimates for Listeria infections in the U.S. run from $228 to $7.6 billion yearly.

The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) published its first comprehensive cost estimates for sixteen foodborne bacterial pathogens in 1989. Five years later, it was estimated that, in 1993, there were 1,795 to 1,860 Listeria infections that required hospitalization, with 295-360 of these cases involving pregnant women. Based on these estimates, the medical costs that Listeria infections had caused each year were said to run from $61.7 to $64.8 million, including those individuals who ultimately died as a result of their infections.

For these same acute cases, productivity costs were estimated to run from $125.8 to $154.4 million a year. The productivity costs associated with Listeria-related chronic illness were estimated to be an additional $38 million a year. In sum, “[e]stimates of total costs for the 1,795 to 1,860 cases of listeriosis range from $232.7 million to $264.4 million annually.”

In 2000, USDA updated the cost-estimates for four pathogens: Campylobacter, Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes. The 2000 estimates were based on the CDC’s then newly-released estimates of annual foodborne illnesses and put the total cost in the United States for these four pathogens at $6.5 billion a year. For Listeria specifically, it was estimated that costs amounted to $2.3 billion per year, based on 2,493 cases, which involved 2,298 hospitalizations and 499 deaths. More recently, in 2007, it was estimated that the worldwide cost of all foodborne disease was $1.4 trillion per year.

In 2015, the USDA updated their report on the economic burden of foodborne illnesses in the United States. Their results showed a total economic burden of over $15.5 billion dollars, with 90% of that burden coming from Salmonella, Toxoplasma gondii, Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter, and norovirus. This report used mean incidence data of 1,591 cases a year, with 1,455 hospitalizations and 255 deaths. The economic burden translated to $138,211,033 in medical costs, $48,410,168 in loss of productivity, and $2,647,823,002 in deaths. When looking at the variability in incidence, cases could span 560 to 3,200 per year, which would translate to a true economic burden ranging from $228 million to $7.6 billion annually. Cost is also measured in Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs), or impact of health states on a person’s ability to participate in life activities. For Listeria, the impact on QALYs is a loss 9,400 years, placing it as fourth highest impact behind non-typhoidal Salmonella, Campylobacter spp., and Toxoplasma gondii, respectively.