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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

Blufish, Pfingsten Road, Glenview, IL, USA

Type: Poisoned
Symptoms: Diarrhea Nausea Vomiting Headache
“On 6/18/20, I had an order of Sake Don that my husband picked up. 3/4 of the way through my meal, I became violently I'll. I continued throwing up for anther 2 hours. Since that time, I've been suffering from neck pain and a bad headache. Last nigh, I threw... See More up matzoh ball soup. Just this morning, my tongue has begun to hurt. I only seem to be able to keep down water, ginger ale, and saline crackers.
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Taco Bell, 991 West El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA, USA

Type: Poisoned
Symptoms: Diarrhea Nausea Cramps
“My wife and I both ordered a Mexican Pizza with extra onions at approximately 11:00-11:30 this morning. Both pizzas tasted like the box and had a bitter after taste. My wife ate most of hers and I could only eat about 1/3. Within an hour we both felt nauseas, had... See More stomach craps and diarrhea. Symptoms still occurring 3hrs later.
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Bertucci's Italian Restaurant | Open for Pick Up, Curbside or Delivery, Worcester Road, Framingham, MA, USA

Type: Poisoned
Symptoms: Vomiting Dizziness Sweating Stomach Pain
“Food poisoning I ate chicken piccata, then the food was digested and before I went to bed (5-6 hours later) I had stomach pains (left, right , center and under the ribs)  the pain started 30-50 before I vomited, I got dizzy, sweating.  ”
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Moe's Southwest Grill, Creedmoor Road, Raleigh, NC, USA

Type: Poisoned
Symptoms: Diarrhea Cramps Stomach Pain
“monday promo half hour after I ate stomach started acting up, thought I was going to throw up, but instead I got reallt bad cramping and diarreha ”
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McDonald's, Little River Turnpike, Alexandria, VA, USA

Type: Poisoned
Symptoms: Diarrhea Nausea Vomiting Stomach Pain
“On June 29, I had a chicken sandwich for lunch. Within a couple of hours, I wasn't feeling very good and later had bad stomach pain and nausea. I've had diarrhea and vomiting, and a day later, I'm still not feeling good. The sandwich was awful! ”
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KFC, Gallows Corner, Colchester Road, Harold Wood, Romford, UK

Type: Poisoned
Symptoms: Diarrhea Nausea Vomiting Cramps
“My daughter, my boyfriend and myself had it on Sunday the 28th of June 2020 some point in the early evening. Between 5-6 ish pm . On Monday the 29th my daughter woke feeling sick and my boyfriend had diarrhoea. At about 11 am I started to get severe cramping... See More and diarrhoea. About an hour later I started to be sick . Projectile vomiting 
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Starbucks, 3301 Northwest Expressway, Oklahoma City, OK, USA

Type: Poisoned
Symptoms: Diarrhea Nausea Other Cramps
“At 2:30pm I ordered a Frappuccino and within approximately an hour later began having nausea along with severe cramps and hot flashes. It’s been an additional hour since then and I’m now having diarrhea. ”
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|1 person found this review helpful

Chez Mamou French Bakery & Cafe, East Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, NM, USA

Type: Poisoned
Symptoms: Diarrhea Nausea Other Weakness Sweating
“I don’t know  Yesterday I ate eggs Benedict. I had it for lunch and its leftovers for dinner. This morning at around 10:30, I felt like diarrhea was coming on. It didn’t happen and I went to lunch. Half way through lunch the stomach spasms became intense and I began... See More to feel nauseated. I made it home at around 1:30 and felt extremely weak. I threw up just a bit of mucus and broke out in a sweat. After almost an hour the symptoms began to abate and I had diarrhea. Later, I found that another person who had lunch with me there that day which was Tuesday this past Tuesday has also gotten sick.
Reported By User

Cassano's Pizza King, South Dayton-Lakeview Road, New Carlisle, OH, USA

Type: Poisoned
Symptoms: Diarrhea Nausea Fever Vomiting
Lettuce or ham or pepperoni or mozzarella cheese  Started around 2-4hours after eating. I got nauseous,then vomiting 1hour. Then diarrhea for 12 hours with slight temperature. Gradually got better after that. Only one person ate after that.  ”
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Girl Scout Cookies, Austin, TX, USA

Type: Poisoned
Symptoms: Diarrhea Nausea Vomiting Cramps
“I bought a few boxes of Thin Mints in January and threw them in the freezer. Yesterday night, June 18th, at around 9pm I opened a box and ate about half a sleeve. At 5:30am my stomach began cramping and I was soon vomiting. My symptoms have persisted throughout today,... See More June 19, and as I go to bed I don’t feel a ton better yet.
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