Government regulators could more realistically assess the value of improving food safety if they considered the fact that consumers typically want to avoid getting sick – even if it means they have to pay a little extra for safer food, researchers say.


In the world of food regulation, cost-benefit analyses are a primary tool for assessing the societal benefits of mandating more stringent – and more expensive – processing practices. In most cases, regulators determine a dollar value associated with pursuing new rules by estimating how many illnesses and deaths the safer processing would prevent.


But, a recent study proposes a new way to approach these estimates. Instead of focusing on reducing food-borne illnesses and deaths associated with a specific pathogen, why not ask consumers how valuable food-safety improvements are to them? The researchers conducted such a national survey that they designed with the help of an economic model that predicts consumer behavior.


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