Yelp used to identify food-borne illness

By Amanda Stewart,

Websites like Yelp can now help food inspectors track down undocumented cases of food poisoning.

The details of this project were published in the May 23 CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. According to HealthDay, reviews that have been posted on websites like Yelp have helped inspectors identify the causes of unknown outbreaks of food poisoning. Officials said that by using this website they were able to cite health violations that may have gone undetected otherwise.

According to Headlines and Global News people will go to sites like these to rate service, report undercooked (or overcooked) meat and even report diarrhea or vomiting after they visited a restaurant. Inspectors were able to use a software program to comb through Yelp and find reviews that talked about food-borne illness. They first tried it in New York.

“We have a lot of reviewers and a lot of restaurants in New York, which made it a good place to try it out,” said Balter. When researchers looked at reviews 893 of them contained the words vomit, diarrhea and food poisoning and more than 50 percent fitted the conditions of food-borne illness.

By further researching this, they found that there had been three food-borne illness outbreaks that affected 16 people and were never reported to the health department.

“We know we don’t identify all of the outbreak that are out there,” said Dr. Sharon Balter, “and this is just another tool to do that.”

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