Restaurants, and Diners, Pay High Price for Food-Related Illnesses


A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health School could cost a multimillion-dollar restaurant like a food-borne disease epidemic such as lost income, penalties, lawsuits, legal fees, insurance premiums, inspection costs and staff retraining.

Findings published online in the Journal of Public Health Reports are based on computer simulations that show that a foodborne disease outbreak can have profound repercussions regardless of restaurant and epidemic size. According to the model, a fast food restaurant could go anywhere from $ 4,000 for a single epidemic, when five people were sick (no losses and lawsuits on income, no legal fees or no fines). An outbreak in which 250 people are sick (when restaurants lose revenue and are exposed to lawsuits, legal fees and fines).

According to the National Restaurant Association, Americans eat about five times a week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 48 million people get sick every year due to foodborne illnesses called food poisoning, 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die every year.

For researchers, researchers have developed a computational simulation model to represent a single outbreak of a given pathogen from a restaurant. The model downloaded the results for four types of restaurants: fast food, fast casual, good food under ordinary and varied parameters (eg, epidemic size, pathogen and scenarios).

The model calculated the cost of 15 foodborne pathogens causing outbreaks in restaurants during the 2010-2015 period reported by the CDC. Examples of pathogens in the model were listeria, norovirus, hepatitis A, E. coli and salmonella. The model has run several different scenarios to determine the level of impact from small outbreaks, which could lead to multiple outbreaks and larger epidemics causing legal outbreaks (ie, lawsuits and statutory fees or fines) that could cause fewer casualties.

Dr. Bloomberg School of Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) manager, Dr.. “Many restaurants do not know how expensive a single foodborne illness epidemic can cost them and how they can affect their lower levels,” says Bruce Y. Lee. . “Paying for and implementing the right infection control measures should be seen as an investment that can collect a million dollars to avoid these costs. Knowing these costs can help restaurants know how much they will invest in such security measures. “

The research team found that a single listeria epidemic in fast food and casual style restaurants could cost up to $ 2.5 million for food, livelihoods, legal fees, fines and higher premiums for an outbreak of 250 people. Given the same conditions, $ 2.6 million was spent on quality food restaurants. Next epidemic costs can be major disruptions for restaurants and are sometimes irreversible. For example, Chi-Chi’s restaurant closed its doors in 2003 and closed its doors in the US and Canada due to the hepatitis A outbreak. In the past decade, many national restaurant chains have lost important business losses due to foodborne disease outbreaks.

Outbreaks of foodborne disease can be prevented by various infection prevention and control measures, which in some cases may be much less costly than the epidemic itself. For example, according to the National Restaurant Association, a training program focusing on basic food safety, cross contamination, time and temperature, and sanitation and sanitation is $ 15 per employee per online course.

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The fact that an employee is not allowed to devote enough time to get rid of a disease can also lead to significant costs. According to the model, a restaurant employee can cost from $ 78 to $ 3,451 for a week to improve, depending on the cost and duration of the illness. Findings from the study suggest that a single norovirus outbreak, also known as winter vomiting insect, could cost a $ 2.2 million restaurant, which could exceed the cost of allowing a sick employee to devote enough time to recover.

“Even a small outbreak, involving five to 10 people, can have big consequences for a restaurant,” says Sarah M. Bartsch, a research fellow at the Global Obesity Prevention Center and researcher. “Enough food safety for all restaurant employees, implementing personnel training and implementing adequate sick leave permits can be simple and many preventive measures can be simple and it is possible to avoid significant costs in the event of an epidemic.”

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