Tweeting for foodborne illness

In less than a year, a Chicago Department of Public Health website launched to track Twitter traffic for foodborne illness complaints turned up 21 restaurants that failed unannounced health inspections (Harris JK et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63[32]:681-685).

twerkingDubbed Foodborne Chicago, the website uses an algorithm that parses Chicago-area tweets that include the words “food poisoning.” Project staff members then review the tweets for references to stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, or other terms than may indicate food-borne illness. Staff members respond and ask the Twitter users to report on Foodborne Chicago their illness and where they ate. The web forms go directly to the Chicago 311 system that handles nonemergency city services. From March 2013 to January 2014, Foodborne Chicago identified 2241 “food poisoning” tweets, of which 270 described specific food-borne illness complaints. Eight of those 270 tweets mentioned a visit to a physician or a hospital emergency department. Overall, 193 food poisoning complaints were submitted through Foodborne Chicago. About 10% sought medical care.

The complaints triggered unannounced health inspections at 133 restaurants; 21 failed their inspections and were closed. Another 33 restaurants passed with conditions, indicating that serious or critical violations were identified and corrected.

In related news, Carol Beach of The Packer says Foodborne Chicago researcher, Jenine Harris of Washington University in St. Louis, reported health officials in Boston and New York City are considering similar Twitter taps.

In September, researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute published results in the journal “Prevention Medicine” that showed a strong correlation between negative customer reviews on the website Yelp and foodborne illness outbreaks tracked by the CDC.

The study included more than 5,800 reviews of restaurants posted from 2005 through 2012.

Results showed that social media reviews could complement traditional outbreak surveillance methods by providing rapid information on suspected foodborne illnesses, the implicated foods and the restaurants involved, according to the research report.

The Virginia researchers looked at five categories of food and the rates at which Yelp reviewers reported an illness compared to the rates of CDC’s reported illness information and found very similar results:

  • Vegetables implicated in 22% of illnesses reported on Yelp, 25% from CDC;
  • Fruits and nuts implicated in 7% on Yelp, 7% from CDC;
  • Meat and poultry implicated in 32% on Yelp, 33% from CDC;
  • Dairy and eggs implicated in 23% on Yelp, 23% from CDC; and
  • Seafood implicated in 16% percent on Yelp, 12% from CDC.

Elaine Nsoesie, co-author of the study and postdoctoral research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University, wrote that consumer reviews or tweets about illnesses could be an an additional tool to help public health authorities detect outbreaks earlier.

Eat it, don’t tweet it; gratuitous food porn video shot of the day

As the usual suspects weigh in with ol’ timey public relations strategies and superficial observations of social media in the , it’s good to poke fun at all things foodie. Satirical takedowns of the pretentious and pompous never go out of style, regardless of the medium.

From Eater, a cautionary tale for this modern life: the below anthem from The Key of Awesome! warns against the perils of tweeting before eating. A send up of Pet Shop Boys songs, it features "culinary paparazzi," a lobster and a cupcake posing like super models, and an unhappy ending. For the next time you think, "it’s unthinkable to dine out and not record it/Want the world to know I can afford it."

Tia Keenan live tweets a DOH inspection at Brushstroke in NYC

 Tia Keenan
We are the well-heeled and we are PISSED that the Health Dept. is disturbing our dinner at Brushstroke. Tsk tsk.

Not everyone responds well to an inspection by health types.

Eater NY documents the live tweets of cheese guru Tia Keenen who had her meal at upscale David Bouley restaurant Brushstroke interrupted by a DOH inspection. Excerpts include:

Tia Keenan
This crowd is not accustomed to enduring the petty injustices of Bureaucracy! They don’t wait for anything! Take your walk-in temp and gtfo.

Tia Keenan
Oh god the inspector is taking the temp of a custard.

Tia Keenan
Our meal has stopped. RT if you know the NYC Health Dept is an extortion racket.

Tia Keenan
Obligatory bow-tied wasp yelling at inspector “Leave! We don’t want you here!”

Tia Keenan
Sassy waiter at Brushstroke last night told us if we didn’t like something we could go across the street to Ninja!!!! So awesome.

Tweeting for toilet paper, handwashing in urinals

As I’ve said before, when Chapman got his first Blackberry he was so proud he sent me an e-mail from the crapper.

“Dude, I’m on the toilet, and I’m e-mailing you,” or something like that.

Last week, the apparently popular Tokyo DJ, Naika_tei, who also apparently doesn’t know to check for toilet paper before laying logs in a public bathroom, discovered the TP shortage after completing his business. The tei played it cool in the electronics store and sent out this tweet:

"[Urgently needed] toilet paper in the 3rd floor toilet of Akiba Yodobashi."

Five minutes later, he sent another desperate tweet.

After 18 minutes, he tweeted again:

"The toilet paper arrived safely! Thank you very much!"

No amount of tweeting would help the fellow in the video, below. According to one of my language correspondents, the folks in this clip are speaking Dutch, and the dude tried to wash his hands in the Pissoir — the portajohns were apparently there for the women. When she asks: For the record: is that the pissoir? The guy in the red shirt says: yes, a pissoir.

The blond with the microphone says she is speechless.

At least when I was a kid and went to Maple Leaf Gardens when Toronto had a winning hockey team (yes, I am that old) the communal urinal trough was level with the floor, not at handwashing height.