Officials at BP are saying that a group of illnesses among oil spill clean-up workers resulted from food poisoning, according to reports. A group of people working to clean the massive spill reported nausea, headaches and chest pain. The workers were apparently using chemical dispersants to counter the spill.
BP CEO Tony Hayward was quick to place the cause of the workers’ illnesses elsewhere:
"I’m sure they were genuinely ill, but whether it was anything to do with dispersants and oil, whether it was food poisoning or some other reason for them being ill," Hayward said. "You know, food poisoning is clearly a big issue when you have a concentration of this number of people in temporary camps, temporary accommodation. It’s something we have to be very, very mindful of. It’s one of the big issues of keeping the army operating. You know, armies march on their stomachs."
Even with the hopeful presumption that the illnesses are not serious, the incident is a good example of the disruption that food poisoning can cause. Missed work time and productivity is just one cost. The USDA recently released estimates of yearly costs associated with two prominent pathogens that cause food poisoning, Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7. USDA estimated those yearly costs at $2,649,413,401 and $478,381,766 respectively.