Ohio has an estimated 3.2 million cases of food-borne illnesses annually, 762,000 of which originate from eating produce, says a wide-ranging study to be released today.

Nationwide, the study by the Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University estimates some 76 million American are sickened from consuming contaminated food annually, resulting in 5,000 deaths.

These food-borne illnesses, such as salmonella and e. coli, also cost Ohioans an estimated $5.8 billion a year in health-care spending and quality-of-life losses. That ranks Ohio seventh in the nation; when calculated per capita, it’s18th.

The study, authored by Ohio State University assistant professor and former Food and Drug Administration economist Robert Scharff, is the first-ever estimate of the financial burden of food-borne illness state by state.

“In public health,” said Jim O’Hara, Produce Safety Project director, “it is critical to have a measure of the problem you are trying to attack.”

The report’s scope is the most sweeping to date.

As the basis of their modeling, researchers used CDC data on 27 bacterial, viral, parasitic and unknown pathogens. The most cited data until now had been a 15-year-old FDA study that looked at just five pathogens.

Also, because health officials believe that much food poisoning goes unreported, the incidence numbers include a calculation that for every case recorded by the Centers for Disease Control, 20 go unreported, Scharff said.

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