Foodborne Chicago app helps consumers report food poisoning incidents

Suffering because of some rancid egg salad or a wurst that was the worst? Tweet about it to get the official attention you need—and to help protect other patrons.

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That’s where it’s hoping the public can help.

In April, three volunteer coders from the city health department developed an app, FoodBorne Chicago, that helps consumers report food poisoning cases in Chicago via Twitter. This is turning out to be a way to reach patrons who wanted to file a complaint, but didn’t know how to do so.

Here’s how it works: There are 50,000 tweets from Chicagoans each day. The app has a special algorithm that searches for tweets that contain phrases such as “food poisoning” or references to feeling sick after eating at a given restaurant. As more tweets come in, the algorithm gets “smarter” and can detect bona fide cases of food poisoning.

Next, the health department tweets to people who have reported some kind of food-borne illness. It offers the afflicted patrons a link to an online form so they can submit a complaint.

Here’s an example of what the city health department has tweeted to people:

@mbakerphoto Sorry to hear you’re sick. We can help you by clicking on this link to file a report.

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