Investigating the 13 Michigan cases in this outbreak, and identifying the source of infection, cost about $22,500: $1,697 in lab costs for personnel and supplies, and $12,201 for follow-up at the state level. A rough estimate of Michigan Department of Agriculture personnel costs is about $8,600.
This was a relatively small-scale outbreak that, fortunately, did not sicken too many people, although one illness is, of course, too many. Also, the epidemiological circumstances were fairly clear from the get-go, as health officials investigating outbreaks of E. coli, campylobacter, and salmonella routinely ask about raw milk consumption for all such illnesses in their initial interviews with the sick people. Thus, in this outbreak, health officials were probably able to hone in on the Family Farms Cooperative raw milk product early on in their investigation, thus eliminating lots of costs that are frequently associated with investigations of foodpoisoning or "milkpoisoning" illnesses.
Nonetheless, the costs attributable to the investigation of this outbreak are part and parcel of a problem–i.e.food and milkpoisoning generally–that costs this country an estimated $152 billion annually.
In addition to the personal injury lawsuits that arise from such outbreaks, should state and local health officials seek reimbursement of the costs associated with food, water, and milkpoisoning? Why not? Sometimes, no injury claims emerge from outbreaks, even when a specific food or milk product is conclusively identified as the outbreak vehicle. In those cases, what other mechanism is there to force accountability upon the manufacturers of the contaminated products?