In Food Poisoning Probes, NYC Calls for Yelp

NEW YORK (AP) -

New York City is using a novel way to uncover cases of food poisoning — reading Yelp restaurant reviews.

Health officials found three unreported outbreaks by sifting through nearly 300,000 reviews on the website. The outbreaks were small, together blamed for only 16 illnesses. But one expert called it an innovative way to catch clusters of food poisoning.

In New York, outbreaks were traced to three restaurants and inspectors found food handling problems at all three. Officials were also able to figure out the tainted food involved, but couldn’t say exactly what germ in the food made people sick.

Traditionally, health officials hear about potential food poisonings from doctor reports and phone calls from people who say they got sick. In New York each year, about 3,000 people complain to the city’s 311 service hotline. Only about 1 percent of those calls pan out and lead to a cluster of illnesses.