February 23, 2020

New Study Links Government Food Safety Spending and Illness

A new study conducted at the University of Washington School of Nursing has found that local government spending on food safety and sanitation programs affects the number of illnesses occurring in surrounding areas. Researchers looked at 11 years of data from county health departments in Washington state and New York.

CongressIn Washington state, cuts to public health programs correlated with increasing Salmonella infections. In New York, cuts to public health programs correlated with increased Cryptosporidium infections. There have been major budget cuts and job losses in many local health departments around the country in recent years.

Higher rates of Salmonella infections, which are usually caused by contaminated food, are associated with fewer food safety services. Cryptosporidiosis is waterborne, usually spread through public pools, and outbreaks of this parasite is associated with facility sanitation. In addition, these diarrheal illnesses are usually underreported and underestimated.

The local food safety activities defined in the study included educational efforts, implementation of regulations, food-handler permits, restaurant inspections, and complaint investigations. Health departments that spent more money on these areas experienced “significantly lower” incidences of Salmonella and Cryptosporidium.

The researchers also looked at E. coli, Campylobacter, and Hepatitis A, but couldn’t come to conclusions about associations between those infections and public health spending. Overall, though, the researchers concluded that cutting investments in public health may increase the risk of illness among the general public.

Betty Bekemeier, the study’s lead investigator said in a statement, “we can all expect and hope that these important services related to restaurant safety and proper sanitation in pools and public facilities are doing their job in terms of keeping us safe from disease. We can now say much more definitely how important these services are for protecting our health.”



  1. Tami K. Hastings says

    Where is the “LIKE” button?

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