Capture-recapture analysis has been used to evaluate infectious disease surveillance. Violation of the underlying assumptions can jeopardize the validity of the capture-recapture estimates and a tool is needed for cross-validation. We re-examined 19 datasets of log-linear model capture-recapture studies on infectious disease incidence using three truncated models for incomplete count data as alternative population estimators. The truncated models yield comparable estimates to independent log-linear capture-recapture models and to parsimonious log-linear models when the number of patients is limited, or the ratio between patients registered once and twice is between 0·5 and 1·5. Compared to saturated log-linear models the truncated models produce considerably lower and often more plausible estimates. We conclude that for estimating infectious disease incidence independent and parsimonious three-source log-linear capture-recapture models are preferable but truncated models can be used as a heuristic tool to identify possible failure in log-linear models, especially when saturated log-linear models are selected. © 2007 Cambridge University Press.