Could Yelp Help in Tracking Down Food Poisoning Outbreaks?

 Posted on January 04, 2016 in Food Poisoning

By Daniel Kotin

food poisoning outbreaks, Chicago personal injury attorneysMore than 30 million cases of food poisoning are reported in the United States each year. Many others go unreported and untreated. Clearly, it is a serious problem—one currently without a viable solution. However, experts have begun to question whether or not applications and websites, such as Yelp, may be able to help in tracking down outbreaks and shutting down repeat or serious offenders.

The Dangers of Food Poisoning

At first glance, food poisoning might not seem like a serious condition. However, symptoms can range from mild gastroenteritis and dehydration to life-threatening neurologic, hepatatic, and renal syndromes. Of course, most victims do recover, but a recent study managed to trace more than 2,000 annual deaths to foodborne illnesses and pathogens. Though slightly lower than the previously estimated 9,000 deaths per year, it is clearly still a prominent issue in the United States.

The Difficulty Officials Experience in Stopping Outbreaks

While health inspectors regularly visit food establishments, they are not always able to detect outbreaks in a timely manner. Part of the problem is that foodborne illnesses are often difficult to pin down in the first place, especially since the average American may eat out several times a week, and the complexity of our food chains today can make it difficult to determine whether the illness was caused by an establishment or another food source. Another issue is the rate at which food poisoning may go unreported because the symptoms are mild or have been mistaken for the flu or other common illness.

Could Turning to Other Sources Help?

In previous years, epidemiologists have used hospitalizations to track down potential sources of foodborne illnesses, but the technology era has them considering other options. One such option is the popular review site, Yelp. But could it really help in tracing and stopping food poisoning outbreaks?

Studies from Columbia University and Boston Children’s Hospital found programs like Yelp helpful in tracking food poisoning outbreaks. In fact, the Columbia University study managed to uncover three unreported and undetected restaurant-related outbreaks that could have resulted in an investigation by health inspectors. But there are some potential limitations here.

One major problem with using Yelp to track down food poisoning cases is that, like most review sites, it is a business, and that means there could be some possible issues with their algorithms. For example, the company has been accused of exchanging the removal of negative reviews for advertising dollars. While the lawsuit on the matter was ultimately dismissed, it does present a potential dilemma. Users may also leave negative reviews out of spite or mischievousness, sending investigators on a wild goose chase. All in all, it may not serve as a be-all, end-all to tracking down food poisoning outbreaks.

Can You Sue for Food Poisoning?

When food poisoning cases can be traced back to the negligence of an establishment, those affected do have the right to pursue fair compensation for their medical expenses, time lost from work, or the death of a loved one. However, because these cases can be both difficult to prove and extremely complex, it is highly suggested that you seek the assistance of a skilled personal injury attorney to help with your case.

At Tomasik Kotin Kasserman, we protect the rights and best interests of food poisoning victims. With compassionate, experienced, and aggressive representation, we work hard to obtain the best possible outcome for our clients. To learn more about how we may be able to help with your case, contact our skilled Chicago, Illinois personal injury attorneys today. Call 312-605-8800 and schedule your free initial consultation.


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