Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Online reviews help trace food illnesses


Thanks to Yelp, the Center for Disease and Control is finding out which restaurants may be serving up a little illness with their food.

The CDC recently released their findings from a one-year study in New York City where they looked at reviews that involved reports of illness. Of the 294,000 reviews found (just in New York city in one year!), they determined 499 were related to foodborne illness or about 23 reviews a week.

The report finds that: "as social media usage continues to grow among U.S. adults, health departments might consider additional surveillance methods to capture illness reports from those more likely to post a restaurant review online than to contact a health department."

So what does this mean for you, restaurant owners?

One, now is as good a time as any to remind employees about food safety rules for your restaurant and to always wash their hands.

Two, and most important, get off the defense and get online. If you are aware of problem reviews because you are on Yelp and other review sites monitoring your activity, you can nip problems in the bud before the health department is knocking at your door. 

Three, be aware of your state's methods to evaluate any food related illness online and monitor those accordingly. According to the CDC, Chicago Department of Public Health is working with the Smart Chicago Collaborative to check illness reports via Twitter. In Utah, the Department of Health has created its own site, "I Got Sick" for people to make reports. 

Four, be informed of the latest updates on any foodborne illness. The CDC has a handy guide for restaurant owners and consumers.