Research Article

Economic impact of a nationwide outbreak of salmonellosis: cost-benefit of early intervention.

BMJ 1989; 298 doi: (Published 06 May 1989) Cite this as: BMJ 1989;298:1227
  1. J. A. Roberts,
  2. P. N. Sockett,
  3. O. N. Gill
  1. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


    The recognition and investigation of an outbreak of food poisoning in 1982 due to chocolate contaminated with Salmonella napoli enabled the food that carried the salmonella to be identified and four fifths of the implicated consignment of chocolate to be withdrawn. The economic benefits of prompt intervention in the outbreak have been assessed. The cost of the outbreak was over 0.5 pounds m. It is estimated that five deaths were prevented by the intervention and that 185 admissions to hospital and 29,000 cases of S napoli enteritis were avoided. This successful investigation yielded a 3.5-fold rate of return to the public sector and a 23.3-fold return to society on an investment in public health surveillance. A methodology is described that can be used to estimate the benefits of early intervention in outbreaks of foodborne illness and topics for further research are suggested. It is concluded that public health authorities and industry have much to gain by collaborating in the research into the design of cost effective programmes to prevent foodborne infections.