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New York City enlists Yelp to track down food poisoning

New York City used online restaurant reviews to track down previously unreported outbreaks of food poisoning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

Working with Yelp and Columbia University, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene sifted through 294,000 Yelp reviews between July 1, 2012 and March 13, 2013 to identify cases of food-borne illness.

Nearly 500 cases indicated that at least one person had vomiting or diarrhea due to food poisoning. However, only three percent of these reviews had been reported to the city’s “311” hotline. Further investigation led health workers to three previously unreported outbreaks.

Only a sliver of food-borne illnesses are reported because most cases are not life threatening. 3,000 deaths out of 48 million food-related illnesses are reported to the Centers of Disease Control annually.

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