Pathogen Information Is the Basic Problem for Economic Incentives

  • Tanya RobertsEmail author
  • Robert L. Scharff
Part of the Food Microbiology and Food Safety book series (FMFS)


For the private marketplace to operate efficiently, buyers and sellers require information on products being bought or sold. The information problem for food safety is that pathogens in the food items for sale are not visible to the naked eye. Buyers in the food supply chain, from the farm to the restaurant or supermarket, do not have the “facts” of the current pathogen load of the product. Sellers may also be ignorant, unless they have exerted effort via pathogen testing of their inputs, control of their production/processing processes, and/or sampling and testing their finished food products. The inability to link 999/1,000 cases of US foodborne illness to the causative pathogen, food, and company causes weak incentives for companies to produce safe food. However, public or private actions can create pathogen data in the food supply chain and this data can be used to reward or punish companies for their food safety performance.


Economics of information Foodborne pathogens Moral hazard Free riders Economic incentives Statistical process control Food safety Contracts Traceability Third-party audits Pathogen performance standards 



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Culture-independent diagnostic tests


Deoxyribonucleic acid


Economic Research Service/USDA


Food and Drug Administration


Food Safety and Inspection Service/USDA


Food and Water Watch


Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points


Institute of Medicine/NAS


Long term health outcome


Mechanically separated chicken


Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus


National Academy of Sciences


National Research Council/NAS


National School Lunch Program


United States Department of Agriculture


Urinary tract infection


Whole-genome sequencing


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Economic Research Service, USDA (retired)Center for Foodborne Illness Research and PreventionVashonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human SciencesThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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