STATES CHRONICLE – It may be an interesting tool for the future of using Yelp to avoid food-poisoning outbreaks that are spreading around your city. Given the recent reports of Shigella linked to a San Jose restaurant, reviewers have been noted to post on the Mexican seafood joint’s page. And, understandably, it resulted in several bad reviews.
More than 500,000 patients are diagnosed with Shigellosis each year in the United States. It’s a highly contagious disease, that easily spreads if the infected person handles the food and water of others. This places food industry workers at a high risk of becoming hosts for the bacteria.
Further down the road, in just a few days, the patient will develop uncomfortable symptoms that include bloody or watery diarrhea, fever, chills, and, in some rare cases, the infection may even be fatal. It takes between 5 to 7 days for them to subside. However, one week worth of the infection should be quickly reported back to its source.
This has happened in the case of the Mariscos San Juan (no. 3) restaurant. Many people reported sick to the hospital after eating at their establishment, but it seems Yelp was not so far behind the officials. Reviews have littered their page on the popular website. Warnings had been issued. Now it’s only a matter of others listening.
A similar situation was found after researchers from Boston went over 5,800 Yelp reviews on food service businesses. They covered 29 colleges in 15 different states, screening for outbreaks announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) placed against the protest of ill customers. They concluded that official reports could be tracked closely through reviews.
Furthermore, public health workers from New York City did their own scans between 2012 and 2013 of Yelp comments. They found 900 cases that were worthy of an official investigation, and three additional cases of outbreaks related to restaurants covering 16 illnesses. If they had been caught on time, they would’ve warranted a public health investigation.
However, it should be clear that the plan to follow Yelp is not flawless in the slightest. The website is still working on how to handle negative reviews about restaurants after they were labeled as sources of food poisoning. The warnings could be issued by people who are trying to make a point, pressured by others who have been there, or influenced by media.
The company has also been fighting certain allegations. Some accuse Yelp of hiding bad reviews or requesting money from certain restaurants to only post positive feedback. The website, however, has denied the claims and the issue was dismissed.
It should not replace official investigations, but it could be a decent tool for their beginning. As long as they find a way to separate the useful reviews from slander.
Image source: marketingland.com