(AP) — A new report released by a food safety group estimates food-borne illnesses cost the U.S. $152 billion each year in health care and other losses. Food-borne illness linked to fresh produce alone costs the U.S. more than $39 billion per year according to the report.

Wednesday's report by the Produce Safety Project, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, examined government data on all food-borne illnesses with a known cause, such as E. coli and salmonella, as well as illnesses with no known cause.

The $152 billion yearly estimate is much higher than previous government estimates of the health-related costs of foodborne illness, which have ranged from about $7 billion to $35 billion. The author of the new report, Robert Scharff, professor in the Department of Consumer Sciences at Ohio State University, said previous studies looked at only a handful of pathogens and were less comprehensive.
The study also looked at a broad set of costs that included medical care and quality of life losses, such as pain and suffering and death.

The report comes as the U.S. Senate considers legislation that would require more government inspections of food manufacturers and give the Food and Drug Administration new authority to order recalls, among other things. The House passed a similar bill last year.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said the study showed health care costs related to foodborne illness are “shockingly high.” DeLauro said many deaths from food-borne illness deaths in the U.S. are preventable.

“The U.S. regulatory system has failed to keep pace with the proliferation of food sources and processing methods,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, (D-Iowa). Harkin goes on say, “though our nation has 150,000 food processors, the FDA visits just 7,000 domestic plants each year and even fewer of the foreign facilities that process food for shipment into the United States.”

Source: AP contributed to this story.