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Can Restaurant Review Websites Help Me Avoid Food Poisoning?

Posted on in Food borne illness
Can Restaurant Review Websites Help Me Avoid Food Poisoning?

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association illustrated how restaurant review website Yelp helped the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene uncover 10 food poisoning outbreaks between 2012 and 2017. The researchers who conducted the study used a computer program that scanned Yelp reviews for specific food poisoning-related keywords like “vomit” and “sick.” After successfully uncovering local outbreaks through the program, the researchers hope to use it to track foodborne illnesses in other cities.

Studying How User Reviews can be Used to Trace Outbreaks

The researchers followed up with many of the reviewers about their symptoms, which items they consumed, and whether their dining companions became ill as well. In doing so, they tracked a few outbreaks that were not reported to health authorities. It is not uncommon for an individual to simply let his or her illness run its course, especially if the illness does not require the victim to receive medical attention.

This is not the first time restaurant review sites have been recognized as a way to trace foodborne illnesses. In 2015, Yelp launched its own campaign to integrate restaurants' health department scores into their listings. Currently, this information is only available for restaurants in the San Francisco area. Other websites, like, can also be helpful for individuals who think they suffered from food poisoning and want to “compare notes” with others who ate at the same restaurants during the same time frame. Although these websites can be helpful, it is important to remember that you cannot verify reviews' accuracy 100%.

Where to Report Your Food Poisoning Experience

If you experience food poisoning, the right place to report your symptoms is the local health department, not a restaurant review website. You can choose to report your experience to both outlets, but do not assume that the review site is an adequate substitute for reporting your symptoms and diagnosis to the proper authority. While an online review can help other diners avoid the restaurant where you became ill, it cannot concretely link your illness to a specific food item. Your local health department, on the other hand, can do so by examining the pathogens in a leftover portion of the food or in a stool sample you provide. This can also help the health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention build a strong enough body of evidence to issue an official warning or promote a recall of the contaminated food product.

Work with an Experienced Itasca Food Poisoning Attorney

If you suffered from a bout of food poisoning because of another party's negligence, you could have grounds to pursue monetary compensation for your damages through a personal injury claim. To learn more and determine the right way to move forward with your case, schedule your initial consultation with our team of experienced food poisoning lawyers at Newland & Newland, LLP today. We serve clients in the Arlington Heights, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Libertyville, Mundelein, Buffalo Grove, Schaumburg, Elk Grove, and Itasca areas.

(image courtesy of Jay Wennington)

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