Chicago Using Twitter to Monitor Foodborne Illnesses

Chicago Using Twitter to Monitor Foodborne Illnesses
Foodborne Chicago

Chicago is using the power of Twitter to track the spread of foodborne illness across the city.

The Chicago Department of Public Health is taking advantage of Twitter’s prowess to monitor the city for restaurants that may be in need of health inspections, reports PopSci.

The department’s dedicated Twitter bot, and an online complaint form, have thus far helped to identify 133 restaurants for inspections over a period of 10 months. Of those restaurants, 21 failed inspection, and another 33 passed with “critical or serious” violations.

According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control, Foodborne Chicago tracked Twitter messages that included the phrase “food poisoning” to identify “specific instances of persons with complaints of foodborne illness.”

Then, “tweets identified by the algorithm were reviewed by project staff members for indications of foodborne illness (e.g., stomach cramps, diarrhea, or vomiting) from food prepared outside the home. Project staff members provided feedback on whether each tweet fit the criteria, enabling the tweet identification algorithm to learn and become more effective over time.”

Based on the success of the Twitter bot, Chicago is now working with the health departments of Boston and New York to gauge the usefulness of a similar program in those cities.

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Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.