Robert Scharff

Professor, Department of Human Sciences

Program Area: Consumer Sciences

(614) 292-4549

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Robert Scharff is a Professor in the Department of Human Sciences at The Ohio State University. He earned a PhD in economics from Duke University and a JD from George Mason University School of Law. Prior to his employment at Ohio State, Scharff was a regulatory economist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Scharff’s research is focused on the economics of risk, with special emphasis on risk from consumption of food and other related products (e.g. food safety and obesity). His research has been funded by USDA, USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Association of Public Health Laboratories, The Produce Safety Project and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Scharff serves on the editorial board of Journal of Food Protection and the Journal of Consumer Affairs. He enjoys teaching classes to both undergraduate and graduate students.


  • JD, George Mason University (cum laude), 2005
  • PhD, Economics, Duke University, 1999
  • BA, Economics and Latin American Studies, George Mason University, 1990

Research Interests

Research Summary

  • An Economic Evaluation of a Molecular Subtyping System for Foodborne Disease Surveillance in the United States. Robert Scharff, Craig Hedberg, and the CIFOR working group.
  • State Differences in the Cost of Foodborne Illness. Robert Scharff.
  • An Economic Evaluation of Ohio’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. Robert L. Scharff and Hua Zan. 
  • Causes and Consequences of Restaurant Closures for Food Safety Violations. Robert L. Scharff and Margaret Binkley.
  • Precautionary Savings and Health. Robert Scharff and Eunice Hong.
  • Labor Market Decisions of Mothers with Chronically Ill Children. Hua Zan and Robert Scharff. 
  • Regional Differences in the Value of Statistical Life. Hua Zan and Robert L. Scharff. 
  • Eating Out and Related Patterns of Nutrient Consumption. Robert L. Scharff.

Selected Publications

  • Brecht Devleesschauwer, Sara M. Pires, Barbara B. Kowalcyk, Robert L. Scharff, Arie H. Havelaar, and Niko Speybroeck. 2020. Risk Metrics: Quantifying the Impact of Adverse Health Effects. In Risk Assessment Methods for Biological and Chemical Hazards in Food. Edited by Fernando Rodriguez. Springer Nature. In Press.
  • Robert Scharff. 2020. Food Attribution and Economic Cost Estimates for Meat and Poultry Related Illnesses. Journal of Food Protection, 83 (6): 959-967.
  • Robert L. Scharff. 2018. The Economic Burden of Foodborne Illness in the United States. In Food Safety Economics. Edited by Tanya Roberts. Springer Nature. 123-142.
  • Robert L. Scharff and Craig Hedberg. 2018. The Role of Surveillance in Promoting Food Safety. In Food Safety Economics. Edited by Tanya Roberts. Springer Nature. 251-266.
  • *Hua Zan, Maria Lambea, Joyce McDowell, and SRobert L Scharff. 2017. An Economic Evaluation of Food Safety Education Interventions: Estimates and Critical Data Gaps. Journal of Food Protection. 80(8) 1355-1363.
  • Patricia Kendall, Robert Scharff, Susan Baker, Jeffrey LeJeune, John Sofos, and Lydia Medeiros. 2017. Food Safety Instruction Improves Knowledge and Behavior Risk and Protection Factors for Foodborne Illnesses in Pregnant Populations. Maternal and Child Health Journal. 21(8): 1686-1698.
  • Hua Zan and Robert L. Scharff. 2017. Regional Differences in the Value of Statistical Life. Journal of Consumer Policy 40(2): 157-176.
  • Robert L Scharff, John Besser, Donald J. Sharp, Timothy F. Jones, Peter Gerner-Smidt, Craig W Hedberg. 2016. An Economic Evaluation of PulseNet: A Network for Foodborne Disease Surveillance. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 50(5): S66-S73.
  • Robert L. Scharff. 2015. State Estimates for the Annual Cost of Foodborne Illness. Journal of Food Protection. 78(6): 1064-1071.
  • Tansel Yilmazer and Robert L. Scharff. 2014. Precautionary Savings against Health Risks: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study. Research on Aging. 35(1): 1-27. 
  • Robert L. Scharff. 2012. The Economic Burden from Health Losses due to Foodborne Illness in the United States. Journal of Food Protection. 75(1):123-131. 

Selected Presentations

  • Robert L. Scharff. The Role of Economics in Risk Analysis (As part of a symposium: Building a Risk-based Food Safety System from Scratch). Society for Risk Analysis Annual Meeting. Arlington, VA. (December 9, 2019).
  • Robert L. Scharff, Arie Havelaar, Mengistu Ketema, Barbara Kowalcyk, and Mark Weir. Using Risk Analysis to Estimate the Economic Burden of Foodborne Disease in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Case of Ethiopia. Society for Risk Analysis - Fifth World Congress on Risk. Cape Town, South Africa. (May 7, 2019). 
  • Robert L. Scharff. The Health-Related Economic Burden of Foodborne Illness from Meat and Poultry. International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting. Tampa, FL. (July 10. 2017).
  • Robert L. Scharff. Effect of WIC Participation on Future Diet and Health. 2017 American Council on Consumer Interests Conference. Albuquerque, NM (April 22, 2017). 
  • Robert L. Scharff. Information and the Creation of Positive Economic Incentives for Food Safety Performance. International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting. St Louis, MO. (August 2, 2016).
  • Robert L. Scharff. Food Consumption, Food Handling, and Diarrheal Illness. IAFP European Symposium on Food Safety. Athens, Greece. May (11-13, 2016).
  • Robert Scharff. Estimates for the Cost of Foodborne Illness across US States. International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting. Indianapolis, IN. (August 5, 2014).
  • Robert Scharff. Economic Benefits from a Food Safety Education Program. International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting. Providence, RI (July 22-25, 2012)
  • Robert L. Scharff. The Economic Cost of Foodborne Illness from Contaminated Produce in the United States. International Association for Food Protection 96th Annual Meeting. Anaheim, CA. (August 1-4, 2010)
  • Robert Scharff. Regional Differences in Value of Statistical Life and Value of Statistical Life Year Estimates. AAEA & ACCI Joint Annual Meeting. Milwaukee, WI. (July 28, 2009)