Smartphones to enhance foodborne illness surveillance

The collection of comprehensive data on both food exposure history and gastrointestinal symptoms associated with foodborne illness is typically challenging because of poor compliance with data collection methods. Smartphone technology provides a convenient tool with which to collect data on food consumption behavior and foodborne illness.

Ethica, a smartphone-based application used to acquire, store, and analyze data on human behavior, was evaluated as a potential supplement to current data collection strategies. The purpose of this study was to assess the compliance rates, advantages, and drawbacks of a smartphone-based method of collecting food history and foodborne illness data from a sample of volunteers.

Through a combination of user-triggered and prompted microsurveys, meal descriptions, and photo food diaries, the food consumption behavior of 96 university students was investigated over a period of 10 weeks. During the first 10 days of the study, 95% of participants used the time-triggered microsurveys and 51% of participants used the digital image features of the app to report food consumption history at least twice per day. Approximately 34% of participants used at least one of the reporting features to report at least one episode of vomiting or nausea during this period, and 29% reported at least one episode of diarrhea; only 7% sought medical care.

The smartphone-based method of data collection used in this study allowed capture of uniquely detailed food history data and data on gastrointestinal symptoms associated with foodborne illness that were not reported to medical practitioners and public health.

This enhanced ability to gather in-depth information from sentinel and at-risk target populations could support foodborne illness surveillance. Compliance rates, advantages, and limitations discussed in this study can guide the development of future data collection strategies.

Compliance rates, advantages, and drawbacks of a smartphone-based method of collecting food history and foodborne illness data, June 2019

Journal of Food Protection vol. 82 no. 6 pp. 1061-1070

Patrick Seitzinger, Nathaniel Osgood, Wanda Martin, Joanne Tataryn, and Cheryl Waldner

Arizona diners can look up restaurant inspections on smart phones

Maricopa County Environmental Services has just rolled out a new mobile restaurant ratings tool that can be accessed from any smartphone.

rest.inspection.smartphoneDivision manager Andrew Linton said the restaurant tool allows anyone, anywhere to look up specific restaurant inspection reports for any of the 22,000 food service establishments across the Maricopa County.

“If you are out on the go and decide to eat at a restaurant that you are not familiar with,  you see how they do on their inspections,” said Linton. “This is a really easy way to get an idea of how they are doing.”

The restaurant ratings tool is different from your basic phone app, said Linton.

To access it, all users have to do is go to the county’s website at

Users can then do a search of a specific restaurant or look up all restaurants within a one-mile radius of their location.

Users will see a map that they can then use to look up an individual restaurant, and see its latest health inspection report.

According to Linton, another benefit of the restaurant ratings tool is that if diners have a bad experience going out to eat, they can file a complaint right from their smart phone.

Food safety cleanup

A Japanese buffet restaurant in Stockbridge, Georgia, was asked to close after failing another health inspection, its third in less than six months. The food permit for Huge Hibachi Sushi Buffet, 5425 N. Henry Blvd., was recently suspended because of “continual disregard for public safety.” astonishing 85 restaurants in Birmingham, UK, have been zero-rated for hygiene standards.

Several Malaysian eateries have been ordered closed by the Klang Municipal Council (MPK) in an ongoing operation to check food safety and hygiene. “Action was taken for violations such as cockroach infestation, rat droppings, not maintaining food temperature, preparing food in back lanes and dirty toilets,” said MPK Corporate Communications director Norfiza Mahfiz.

With many jumping on the smartphone disclosure bandwagon, it’s no surprise that shoppers in China can look up a kiwi fruit’s complete thousand-mile journey from a vine in a lush valley along the upper Yangtze River to a bin in a Beijing supermarket. The smartphone feature, which also details soil and water tests from the farm, is intended to ensure that the kiwi has not been contaminated anywhere along the way. Some talk. Some do.

I still prefer name and shame: Name and Fame for Dubai restaurants

Customers will soon be able to view a food safety grade on the entrance of Dubai food outlets as part of an upcoming “Name and Fame” scheme, an official said on Sunday.

scarlet.letterThe scheme will reveal whether the outlet has passed, failed or obtained a conditional pass in official food safety inspections.

It will also assign what will probably be a letter grade indicating the level of compliance, with “A” being the highest and “E” the lowest.

The scheme was announced during the ninth Dubai International Food Safety Conference, which lasts until Tuesday.

“We want to let consumers know who’s doing well. It’ll invite people to make food safety their priority,” Sultan Al Tahir, head of inspections at Dubai Municipality’s food control department, said.

“The grade will be posted outside the place. We’ll implement this in the future.”

Al Tahir said more than 200 out of 13,000 food establishments in Dubai are of A-grade standing. Those falling in the E category are 430.

It is understood the grades will be revised if necessary after scheduled and spot food safety inspection results.

Also planned for consumers is a smart barcode system which will let smartphone users scan the product information on the packaging of all food products in the UAE, said Khalid Mohammad Sharif, the municipality department’s executive director. an app in their smart device, customers will be able to scan a code that will reveal a catalogue of information, such as nutrition facts, expiry date, ingredients, and country of origin.

The code will also reveal if the product has ever been flagged by authorities.

“Consumers will know if it has had any previous history. It means more control and transparency, which is good for everybody. All of that will be on your smartphone,” Sharif added.

The system will also reveal if the product is registered with federal authorities, which will become mandatory some time in 2015, he said.

The Dubai Municipality plans to shut down food outlets that do not raise their food safety standards to the highest level before the emirate hosts the World Expo in 2020, a senior official revealed on Sunday.

“We want all food outlets in Dubai to be in ‘A’ and ‘B’ categories. We don’t want any restaurant or hotel below those grades by 2020,” Khalid Mohammed Sherif Al Awadhi said.

Speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the 9th Dubai International Food Safety Conference (DIFSC) on Sunday, Al Awadhi said it is high time that eateries raised their standards to make Dubai the best place to dine in.

Smartphones lead to smarter outbreak investigations: Clostridium perfringens, London, March 2013

On 22 March 2013, 150 of 1,255 students (13–17 years) and staff at a school in London reported gastrointestinal symptoms; onset peaked 8 to 12 hours after a lunch served in the school on 21 March. We performed a retrospective cohort study of all students and staff. We defined cases as school attenders on 20 and 21 March with onset of gastrointestinal symptoms between 20 and 23 March.

carpet-vomit-stainsWe tested food, environmental and stool samples of cases for common pathogens and bacterial toxins. We administered an online questionnaire via email, encouraging the use of smartphones to respond, to measure risk of illness for food items eaten at school on 20 and 21 March. Survey response was 45%. Adjusted risk ratios were generated in a multivariable analysis. Those who ate chicken balti on 21 March were 19.3 times more likely to become ill (95% confidence interval: 7.3–50.9). Clostridium perfringens was detected in all 19 stool samples collected. Within eight school hours of its launch, 412 of 561 (73%) responders had completed the survey. Hygienic standards in the kitchen were satisfactory. The investigation was done rapidly due to smartphone technology and we recommend considering this technology in future outbreaks.

Euro Surveill. 2014;19(19)

Simone B, Atchison C, Ruiz B, Greenop P, Dave J, Ready D, Maguire H, Walsh B, Anderson S.

AsureQuality releases smartphone food safety program

This looks potentially useful, depending on the depth of the microbial food safety information provided.

Food safety and biosecurity service provider, AsureQuality has developed the new website brand, inSight, which allows consumers to access independent evidence on the products that they are buying via their smartphone device.

inSight allocates a unique QR barcode to products that have undergone a supply chain assessment and obtained an “inSight licence.” The barcodes are then printed on product for consumers to scan with their mobile devices. Once the product has been scanned, consumers will be taken directly to the inSight website where they can view independent evidence about the product features prior to purchase.

Tenda Nutritional Foods recently launched its range of inSight branded infant formula products into the Chinese market, noting that the inclusion of the QR codes has created trust for its consumers by showing transparency, integrity and safety in the production process.

Mark Inglis, AsureQuailty’s sales and marketing manager said that inSight provides a crucial point of difference for products in the FMCG market, especially for those wishing

Features that consumers can check via the inSight website include environmental sustainability, ethical and animal welfare, nutrition, origin, organic status, and food quality and safety.

Smartphone-controlled toilet features remote lid, speakers, app

Parents are fascinated with baby poop and engage in Dickensonian descriptions with other people who don’t care.

Babies grow up and poop on the toilet: “Daddy, look at my enormous poop.”

As a four-year-old, Sorenne’s favorite saying, repeated about 10 times a day, seems to be, “I farted, excuse me.”

Once she hits puberty, this fascination will end, and I will be nothing more than an embarrassment.

As people age, poop again becomes conversational.

And then it’s Depends.

But leave it to the bacterially-adverse Japanese to develop smartphones that can control a toilet.

Created by Japanese company Lixil under its INAX brand of products, the Satis is a Bluetooth-capable commode that users can command via an Android app. The super-toilet enables hands-free flushing and toilet-seat lifting, among other actions, according to website Japan Trends.

Called “My Satis,” the app also lets users play music through the toilet’s speakers, and set up a toilet diary to monitor their regular washroom sessions. 

Texas town adding QR codes to restaurant inspection certificates

Plano, Texas will become the first city in the state to offer a Quick Response, or QR, code on the restaurant’s publicly-displayed permit.

In the report, above, by CBS 11′s JD Miles, the owner of the Bavarian Grill got it right when he said something approaching, I’ve been in business 18 years, all As with one B. I want to promote that.

Plano is allowing smartphone owners instant access to health information on the roughly 1,400 restaurants in the city.

Apps like Google’s ‘Goggles’ program can easily read the bar codes, which are supposed to be posted so customers can find them when they can’t see behind the kitchen door.