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States’ using iwaspoisoned.com for outbreak alerts

The crowdsourcing site iwaspoisoned.com has collected thousands of reports of foodborne illnesses from individuals across the United States since 2009 and is expanding with a custom alert service for state health departments.

“There are now 26 states signed up, allowing government (health) officials and epidemiologists to receive real time, customized alerts for reported foodborne illness incidents,” said iwaspoisoned.com founder Patrick Quade.

restaurantconsumers_406x250Quade said he wanted to make iwaspoisoned.com data more accessible to health departments and experts in each state.

“This real time information provides a wider range of information data to help local agencies better manage food illness outbreaks,” he said. “It also supplements existing reporting channels and serves to corroborate their own reporting systems.”

The Florida Department of Health, Food and Waterborne Disease Program (FWDP) began receiving iwaspoisoned.com alerts beginning in December 2015.

“The FWDP has had an online complaint form for individuals to report food and waterborne illnesses,” a spokesman said. “However, the program has been looking for ways to expand their reach to ensure they are investigating all incidents. Partnering with iwaspoisoned.com was a logical choice for this expansion.”

The FWDP will continue to refine how the program uses the reports during the next several months.

A program manger for Arizona Food Safety and Environmental Services says iwaspoisoned.com alerts are “a great starting point for reporting foodborne illness.”

“The submittal process looks easy and provides local health departments an opportunity to follow up on alerts whenever contact information is provided,” the Arizona manager said.

Quade established iwaspoisoned.com in New York City seven years ago to give people a place to report their experiences of being sickened by restaurant food. It gives such people a place to report the restaurants, locations, symptoms and other details and permits others to comment on the report.

Access available for current reports, but not a restaurant’s entire history going back to 2009 because Quade wants to keep the focus on current outbreaks, and not past events.

The crowdsourcing site has played an increasing role in recent nationally known outbreaks, including those associated with Chipotle Mexican Grill in the last half of 2015. For example, CBS News in Los Angeles first reported on the Simi Valley, Calif., norovirus outbreak after noticing that about a dozen Chipotle customers had logged their illness reports on iwaspoisoned.com.

Eventually, health officials confirmed at least 234 norovirus illnesses associated with a Chipotle location in Simi Valley.

 

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