The website, credited with helping to identify several high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks in recent years, has released an app designed to help people decide where to go when dining away from home.

The app identifies restaurants with recent reports of food poisoning. Another feature allows users to easily upload photos of restaurant receipts and potentially dangerous food they are served.   

“Food poisoning is a common, costly, and avoidable menace. The app will allow all of us to dine safer, together,” said founder Patrick Quade.

Following an incident a few years ago when he became sick after eating a sandwich from a corner deli in lower Manhattan, Quade realized there was nowhere to easily report his illness. That inspired him to create his crowdsourcing website.

The site now has hundreds of thousands of views every month. It has helped numerous public health officials identify outbreaks. Most recently the site was credited with identifying more than 400 reported illnesses linked to a Chipotle restaurant in Powell, OH.

Data compiled by Quade and his staff reveals patterns — such as clusters of reports from consumers who get sick — involving restaurants, college cafeterias, and other foodservice operations. Local, state and federal public health agencies can then use the information to help detect, and sometimes limit, foodborne illness outbreaks. 

From the beginning, Quade has worked with public health agencies, providing them data free of charge. He also works with government and non-governmental agencies to raise awareness in the food industry about the prevalence of foodborne illnesses and ways to reduce them. The stock broker turned food safety advocate is increasingly asked to discuss his work at conferences and seminars. In recent months, some of his presentations were for:

  • Association of Food and Drug Officials of the Southern States (AFDOSS) 2018 Annual Education Conference
  • Annual Education Meeting 2018 Florida Environmental Health Association (FEHA)
  • National Environmental Health Association 2018 Annual Educational Conference & Exhibition
  • Healthy Food Expo Webinar
  • Colorado EH Association: Rocky Mountain Food Safety Conference
  • Central Atlantic States Association of Food and Drug: Annual Educational and Training Seminar
Click on the image for a link to the app.

Conference organizers say one reason they invite him to speak is the integrity of the information the website provides.

Quade developed a rigorous vetting process to review every submission to the website. It has been in place since he founded the site and has been enhanced as technology has advanced.

When the site showed significant and steady increases in traffic — which is in the hundreds of thousands on a monthly basis now — Quade added staff specifically to conduct the submission vetting process. They look for malicious and inauthentic reports such as those that might be submitted by disgruntled employees or competing restaurants.

Quade’s website has public health subscribers in 45 U.S. states. On the world level, public health departments from Singapore, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany subscribe to the alert service.

In addition to strict vetting of submissions, another commitment Quade made at the beginning of his project was to make sure the website is easy to use. The release of the app is an example of that commitment.

“Using the iwaspoisoned app is easy: 1. Download the app, 2. Go out to eat,” Quade said.

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