NYC Department of Health crowdsources Yelp reviews to help locate and investigate possible health code violations

June 5, 2014 | Reply More

NYC Storefront [credit: Fast Company]

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is utilizing Yelp to help locate and investigate potential restaurant health code violations. The agency used software built by Columbia University to scour almost 300,000 restaurant reviews posted to Yelp between July 2012 and March 2013, searching for reports of diarrhea or vomiting after a meal. According to researchers, of the 893 possible occurrences, 56 percent “described an event consistent with food borne illness.”

Using Yelp helps the NYC Health Department locate potential unreported cases of food poisoning far more quickly than conventional methods. Dr. Sharon Balter, a medical epidemiologist with the city, explained to the New York Times “with food-borne illnesses, it’s much better to reach people sooner. When investigating an outbreak, we want to know what people who got sick ate, who else was with them and what items they all ate together. If you wait, people forget.”

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