This page provides references to ERS publications and journal articles:

ERS reports

The following report documents the extent of food safety audits in meat and poultry processing plants (October 2011):

Food Safety Audits, Plant Characteristics, and Food Safety Technology Use in Meat and Poultry Plants

The following report examines the effects of mandatory process regulations and management-determined actions on Salmonella species under the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (PR/HACCP) rule (July 2009):

The Interplay of Regulation and Marketing Incentives in Providing Food Safety

The following report found that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) increased attention to food imports from China is an indicator of safety concerns, as food imports from China more than tripled in value between 2001 and 2008. FDA import refusal data highlight food safety problems that appear to recur in trade and where FDA has focused its import alerts and monitoring efforts (July 2009):

Imports From China and Food Safety Issues

In Food Safety and Imports: An Analysis of FDA Import Refusal Reports (see link below), ERS examined U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data on import refusals of food into the United States from 1998 to 2004:

Food Safety and Imports: An Analysis of FDA Import Refusal Reports

Also see an Amber Waves article based on this study, "Adulteration Accounts for Majority of FDA Food-Related Import Refusals." (September 2008).

"Outbreak Linked to Spinach Forces Reassessment of Food Safety Practices"—While the risk of contracting a foodborne illness from eating spinach is low, spinach and leafy greens have been associated with numerous outbreaks due to contamination with E. coli O157:H7. The 2006 outbreak linked to spinach forced the California spinach and the broader leafy green industry to consider new approaches to food safety (June 2007).

The following study examines retail purchases of beef and beef products to see if consumers responded to the 2003 U.S. government announcements that North American cows had been infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). Food purchase patterns following the BSE announcements varied across beef products but were limited to no more than 2 weeks in all cases (December 2006):

Did BSE Announcements Reduce Beef Purchases?

"Food Safety Improvements Underway in China"—Adverse publicity about contaminated food exports and growing domestic concerns have prompted China to improve overall food safety (November 2006).

"Where Should the Money Go? Aligning Policies with Preferences"—Budget constraints force policymakers to choose which programs to fund, even when human health and safety are at risk. New Federal guidelines emphasize tallying health outcomes to help decide among programs (June 2006).

"New Pathogen Tests Trigger Food Safety Innovations"—Technological advances in the science of pathogen testing are changing the economics of food safety. Information provided by these tests has enabled the food industry to improve food production systems and the safety of food (February 2006).

A set of papers in Choices  explores the central role of information in food safety decisionmaking. The interrelationship between regulations and markets in creating economic incentives to control foodborne pathogens is investigated. The papers examine the economic impact of mandated restaurant hygiene grade cards, food safety innovations, BSE in the United States, supply chain contracts, and co-regulation in the United Kingdom (2nd Quarter 2005).

"The Economics of Food Safety: The Case of Green Onions and Hepatitis A Outbreaks"—Using the example of hepatitis A outbreaks in the United States associated with green onions from Mexico, this report examines the economics of food safety. It reviews the incentives to adopt additional food safety practices and the economic impact of an outbreak on green onion growers in Mexico (December 2004).

In the following report, results from the first national survey of the types and amounts of food safety investments made by meat and poultry slaughter and processing plants since the late 1990s provide evidence that market forces have worked in conjunction with regulation to promote the use of more sophisticated food safety technologies. From 1996 through 2000, U.S. plants as a group spent about $380 million annually and made $570 million in long-term investments to comply with USDA's 1996 pathogen reduction/hazard analysis critical control point (PR/HACCP) regulation (May 2004):

Meat and Poultry Plants' Food Safety Investments: Survey Findings

The following report examines recent industry innovations improving the safety of the Nation's meat supply range from new pathogen tests, high-tech equipment, and supply chain management systems, to new surveillance networks. Despite these and other improvements, the market incentives that motivate private firms to invest in innovation seem to be fairly weak. Results from an ERS survey of U.S. meat and poultry slaughter and processing plants and two case studies of innovation in the U.S. beef industry reveal that the industry has developed a number of mechanisms to overcome that weakness and to stimulate investment in food safety innovation:

Food Safety Innovation in the United States: Evidence from the Meat Industry

The report's findings are summarized in a two-page Research Brief 16x16 - PDF and a related Amber Waves article, "Savvy Buyers Spur Food Safety Innovations in Meat Processing" (April 2004).

The following report describes the results of an investigation into the amount, type, and adequacy of traceability systems in the United States, focusing on the fresh-produce, grains-and-oilseeds, and cattle/beef sectors. Research is based on market studies literature, interviews with industry experts, and on-site interviews with owners, plant supervisors, and/or quality control managers in fruit and vegetable packing and processing plants; beef slaughter plants; grain elevators, mills, and food manufacturing plants; and food distribution centers (March 2004):

Traceability in the U.S. Food Supply: Economic Theory and Industry Studies

The following reportexamines how U.S. and other nations responded to foodborne illness outbreaks traced to internationally-traded food (February 2004):

Response to U.S. Foodborne Illness Outbreaks Associated with Imported Produce

The following study evaluates the costs of sanitation and process control (as required by the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (PR/HACCP) rule of 1996) in producing meat and poultry:

Managing for Safer Food: The Economics of Sanitation and Process Controls in Meat and Poultry Plants

"Weighing Incentives for Food Safety in Meat and Poultry", in the April 2003 issue of Amber Waves highlights these findings, showing how more stringent regulation and changes in the marketplace have improved food safety, despite the rise in meat and poultry recalls (April 2003).

The following report examines how product liability law treats personal injuries attributed to microbially contaminated foods. The risk of lawsuits and the resulting court-awarded compensation may create economic incentives for firms to produce safer food. Nearly a third of foodborne-illness lawsuits tracked by ERS from 1988-97 targeted restaurants as the source of the food contamination. The median award to winning plaintiffs was $25,560, while a few much higher awards raised the mean to $133,280 (in 1998 dollars). (May 2001):

Product Liability and Microbial Foodborne Illness

In the report, Economic Assessment of Food Safety Regulations: The New Approach to Meat and Poultry Inspection (see link below), the benefit/cost evaluation of reducing foodborne illness by requiring meat and poultry plants to use hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) systems found that the benefits of HACCP outweigh its costs by a substantial margin (July 1997):

Economic Assessment of Food Safety Regulations: The New Approach to Meat and Poultry Inspection

The following report covers the proceedings from the January 9-10, 1995 conference in Washington, DC, held by members of Regional Research Project NE-165, a group of more than 70 economists at land-grant universities and government agencies conducting research on the food system. Topics included human foodborne disease, susceptibility, and food consumption data; tracking foodborne pathogen data from farm to retail; integrating data for risk management; and a policy roundtable discussion about how food safety data and analysis can help in program and policy design (December 1995):

Tracking Foodborne Pathogens from Farm to Table: Data Needs to Evaluate Control Options

Journal articles

Ollinger, Michael. "Structural change in the meat and poultry industry and food safety regulations." Agribusiness, 27(2):244-57 (2011).

Buzby, Jean C. "Nanotechnology for Food Applications: More Questions than Answers." The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 44 (3):528-545 (Fall 2010).

Ollinger, Michael and Danna Moore. "The Direct and Indirect Costs of Food Safety Regulation." Review of Agricultural Economics 31 (2):247-65 (Summer 2009).

Nguyen, Sang and Michael Ollinger. "Mergers and Acquisitions, Employment, Wages and Plant Closures in the U.S. Meat Product Industries." Agribusiness: An International Journal 70(1):70-89 (Winter 2009).

Ollinger, Michael, and Danna L. Moore. "The Economic Forces Driving Food Safety Quality in Meat and Poultry," Review of Agricultural Economics 30 (2):289-310 (Summer 2008).

Nguyen, Sang and Michael Ollinger. "Mergers and Acquisitions and Productivity in the U.S. Meat Products Industries: Evidence from Microdata," American Journal of Agricultural Economics  88(3):606-16 (August 2006).

Buzby, Jean C. and Lorraine Mitchell. "Private, National, and International Standards Raise the Bar for Food Safety," Journal of Food Distribution Research, 37 (1):1-6 (March 2006).

Roberts, Tanya, Scott A. Malcolm, and Clare A. Narrod. "Probabilistic Risk Assessment and Slaughterhouse Practices: Modelling Contamination Process Control in Beef Destined for Hamburger," Probabilistic Safety Assessment PSA '99: Risk-Informed Performance-Based Regulation in the New Millennium, Mohammad Modarres, ed., pp. 809-815 (1999).