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Study Ranks Food Pathogens from Factory Farms by Cost to Society

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Of the food pathogens that cost society the most money - in terms of medical care, lost days of work, long-term chronic health problems or deaths - half are found in poultry, pork, beef and other meat products, according to a study due for release Thursday.

For the first time, researchers used federal data on food-borne illnesses to link the pathogens - bacteria, viruses or parasites - and the foods that most often carry them and then ranked them according to the financial burden they place on society.

"We tend to think of food-borne disease as 24 hours of diarrhea and it's over," said J. Glenn Morris, the director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida and one of the authors of the study. "What this shows is that there are diseases that have significant other manifestations, that result in complications, even death. And as a result, the public health burden is so much greater."