Forbes has released the results of a study which aimed to find just how much an outbreak of food-borne illness could cost a restaurant. The study was carried out in collaboration with John Hopkins University and was prompted by the wide range of responses the researchers had seen food providers make after an incident of foodborne illness in an establishment.

The study found that the costs could range from USD$8,271 to $2.6 million for a fine dining restaurant, $6,330 to $2.1 million for a fast-casual restaurant and $3,968 to $1.9 million for a fast-food restaurant. The cost took into account potential legal fees, the severity of the outbreak and the number of potential customers lost from bad publicity.

“Even a small outbreak involving five to 10 people can have large ramifications for a restaurant,” explained Sarah Bartsch of John Hopkins. “The least expensive outbreak that we simulated still cost about $4,000, which is more than many basic infection and prevention control measures cost, such as allowing adequate sick time for ill employees to recover before returning to work.”

The researchers found that the least costly microbe was Bacillus cereus, often found in reheated food or food that has been left at food temperature for too long, while the most costly was an outbreak of listeria.