Yelp can help Track Food Poisoning Cases
When people have no idea where they want to grab lunch or dinner, the website Yelp can become quite helpful. Yelp provides a huge selection of restaurants that can be categorized according to cuisine, location and popularity. One of the most useful parts of the website is the comments section where people express their opinions about the restaurant and the food. This section, according to health experts, could be extremely useful in tracking food poisoning cases.
Health officials from New York City reported that through Yelp, they identified three unreported food poisoning outbreaks after looking through almost 300,000 reviews. The three outbreaks could be linked to a total of 16 illnesses, which the officials agreed is a small number. The reviews that the officials looked at were written from 2012 to 2013 over a nine-month span. A total of 900 reviewer stated that they had vomited or had diarrhea after eating at a particular restaurant. 500 of those cases had symptoms that were similar to a foodborne illness. However, only three percent of them were reported to the city's 311 services.
The experts were able to identify the foods that were involved but could not determine what kind of germ was the exact culprit. They were also able to identify the unsanitary food handling and preparation methods that the three restaurants were using. The officials concluded that regardless of the small number of cases identified, they believe that Yelp could be an extremely helpful tool.
''Great idea!'' said Mike Doyle, head of the University of Georgia's food safety center reported by Boston. ''Many people don't know how to contact the health department, but they're so familiar with social media.''
The report, "Using Online Reviews by Restaurant Patrons to Identify Unreported Cases of Foodborne Illness - New York City, 2012-2013," was published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.