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Restaurant Report: Website alerts health departments to sickness reports

Restaurant Report: Website alerts health departments to sickness


Chipotle executives say a sick employee is what led to 135 customers contracting norovirus from eating at their Sterling restaurant last week. That outbreak was caught quickly.  But food borne illness in restaurants happens more often than you might think because it's rarely reported.

The Centers for Disease Control estimate 48 million people suffer from food borne illness each year from all sources, restaurants, stores, and home cooked food, but only a few thousand cases are reported and confirmed. 

A website called is working to change that. It says it aims to alert health departments, restaurants and consumers about food borne illness to prevent more people from getting sick. 

In fact, founder Patrick Quade says the site was the first to detect the original norovirus outbreak at Chipotle restaurants two years ago. Richmond resident Linda Morris knows the pain of food borne illness all too well. She says she was sick for three days last week after ordering take-out from a local restaurant.  

"My stomach was hurting so badly that I thought I was going to die," Morris said.

She reported it to the Health Department, which is now investigating. NBC12 isn't naming the restaurant where Morris ordered her food because the source of her illness has not yet been confirmed. But most people don't bother or don't know to notify the Health Department or the restaurant they suspect is the source.  

That’s why Quade started

"It made sense to me. If there was a place people could report they got sick, and for instance, you could see 50 people also got sick after eating there, that would be useful information," said Quade. 

Quade says the site alerts health departments, and partners with restaurants that want to be notified, too. Consumers can look up reports on the site, and sign up to receive email alerts about illness reports. We asked Quade how they make sure reports aren't incorrect, or even fake. 

"On a technical back-end review, it looks at a whole bunch of factors, including the time stamps, the IP address, the location, to get a sense of whether this is actually authentic," he said. "Then we read the report and the goal is to weed out inauthentic or malicious or off-topic reports."

Quade says many state and local health departments have signed up for their alerts, including the Virginia Department of Health.

"I think it's useful to have a site like that going on," said Allen Knapp, director of the Office of Environmental Health Services for the Virginia Department of Health.  "I think of it as sort of the value of crowdsourcing as a sentinel of problems out there."

But Knapp urges consumers to report cases directly to the Health Department through its own site, My Meal Detective, so officials can begin investigating right away. 

"We collect a little more information.  Particularly we collect some more specific communication about times, dates, and names of people," said Knapp.

The sooner investigators can pinpoint the source of food poisoning, Knapp says, the sooner they can stop the spread. That's why Morris says she called the Health Department right away.

"I wouldn't wish anyone to go through what I went through," said Morris.

Recent Interesting Reports

El Valle Verde supermarket, Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH, USA

Report Type: Food Poisoning
Symptoms: Nausea Stomach Pain
“Food we ordered from door dash from a Mexican restaurant On Christmas day we ordered from door dash a Mexican restaurant the symptoms didn't hit til bout 3:00 am four people in my house is sick I was so sick I had to call off work due to the hypertension... See More from the illness .. we had 2 taco salads , some nachos , fijitas, burrito and some hard tacos .. it started with a stomache aches then stomache started burning the the poop and nausea
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McDonald's, Las Vegas, NV 89183, USA

Report Type: Food Poisoning
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“Hot Cake & Sausage  10 minutes after I eat the hot cake meal I started feeling nauseous and dizzy. I took a nap hoping to sleep it off but I woke up with or symptoms including stomach aches add a migraine for 12 hours straight ”
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Arizona Family Restaurant, West Esperanza Boulevard, Green Valley, AZ, USA

Report Type: Food Poisoning
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“Ordered takeout dinner from restaurant 12-29-19 at 3:52 pm. Two turkey dinners with mashed potatoes gravy, corn, beans. Within 3 hours got very nauseated, started to vomit and had diarrhea. Both my wife and I had the same symptoms. Called restaurant this morning and they said will have cook check... See More into it.
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Embassy Suites by Hilton Montreal, Saint-Antoine Street West, Montreal, QC, Canada

Report Type: Food Poisoning
Symptoms: Diarrhea Vomiting Cramps Stomach Pain
“Monday 30th, 2019, my family ate at at around 8am at the hotel restaurant. Had eggs both scrambled as well as two omelettes. Noticed the eggs were not being cooked throughly left wet. Within 6 hours or so the three of began to feel sick and then became vomiting intensely... See More for the next day and a half. Severe stomach pain and cramping. Recovering now but we still do not feel well. My wife has now also been affected by this. She is now vomiting as well. She also consumed the eggs on 12/30/19 in the morning at the Suites. So now all four people that consumed eggs 🍳 for breakfast that morning in my family have become severely ill.
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Taco Bell, North Avenue, Grand Junction, CO, USA

Report Type: Food Poisoning
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“We ate at around 630 pm last tonight. Our order was all messed up and i called the manager. About an hour after we ate our food all of us were puking and pooping all at the same time with severe stomach pains. Its awful. Im laying in bed still... See More so nauseous. This is the 3rd time this has happened to us. Never again. Never again.
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Ultimo Coffee, South 20th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA

Report Type: Food Poisoning
Symptoms: Diarrhea Nausea Vomiting Cramps
“Iced coffee Extreme stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, within 4 hours of drinking the iced coffee. The coffee was the only item all day that I did not share with my daughter who did not get sick. The ice had a foul smell (I kept the coffee and quit drinking it... See More after I realized the smell was coming from the cup but after I had drank about 1/4). I called and let them know, they seemed really annoyed with me so I guess I shouldn’t have done that.
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Salvadorean String Cheese recalled for Listeria concerns

Report Type: Food Recall
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FDA advises consumers to discard the recalled products. The products were distributed to retail stores and... See More through mail orders. - Salvadorean String Cheese (Quesillo Cheese) 1lb. Lot #1041020. Blue and white label clear plastic vacuum package. You can check the full recall notice on the FDA website Source: FDA

Walmart Supercenter, Millington, TN, USA

Report Type: Food Poisoning
Symptoms: Diarrhea
“i purchased a deli cooked chicken on friday dec.27 2019. it was uncooked and raw at the bone level. everyone in my family then had diarrheal for the next 2 days. i am on the way now with the rest on the raw chicken to see what they have to... See More say.
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Wendy's, East Kansas Avenue, Garden City, KS, USA

Report Type: Food Poisoning
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“The hamburgers texture taste was not fresh it wasn't like the usual. My head after a hour or less has a migraine and I puked in front of my girlfriend. I was the only one who ate the spicy chicken nuggets and the double stack with ketchup only I also... See More had a grape Sprite. I got sick around a hour or less after I had consumed the food.
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Greenwich SM Baliwag, Baliuag, Bulacan, Philippines

Report Type: Food Poisoning
Symptoms: Diarrhea Nausea Fever Vomiting
“After eating 3 of us got sick after eating late lunch. My husband felt nausea and when we got home he vomited, and his poop is watery, same thing happened to my helper, while must husband is having fever, I felt the same already too ”
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