In outbreaks of foodborne disease associated with retail outlets, the outlet often closes as a precaution before the specific food vehicle has been identified. Suspect food vehicles may be named as part of general control measures. A conventional case-control study cannot be performed because both cases and potential controls are likely to be aware of the hypothesis and therefore potentially biased. Modern sales recording systems in many food retail outlets may provide a basis for constructing a virtual cohort and allow a statistical inference to be made about various possible vehicles of infection. In 2007, an outbreak of E. coli O157 infection in Paisley, Scotland, was linked to cooked meat from a supermarket delicatessen using descriptive epidemiology. Construction of a virtual cohort allowed a relative risk and confidence interval to be estimated which supported the hypothesis of cooked beef topside being the vehicle of infection. This novel method could be valuable in the investigation of future outbreaks.