Can restaurant reviews indicate unreported foodborne illness?


Online restaurant reviews identify foodborne illnesses that go unreported.


Online restaurant reviews describe foodborne illnesses that go unreported. An analysis of 294,000 restaurant reviews appearing on the Yelp website identified 499 reviews in which the reviewer described experiencing vomiting or diarrhea after a meal, but only 3% of these incidents had been reported to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). Further investigation of 129 of the reviews led to interviews with 27 reviewers, then to 3 previously unreported restaurant-related outbreaks linked to 16 illnesses that met DOHMH outbreak investigation criteria and, finally, to identification of multiple food-handling violations at 3 of the restaurants (Harrison C, et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63[20]:441-445). 


MS FREEDMAN is a freelance medical editor and writer in New Jersey. She has nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that may have an interest in any part of this article.

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