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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
October 15, 2014

Tweeting Food-Borne Illness

JAMA. 2014;312(15):1504. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.12463

In less than a year, a Chicago Department of Public Health website launched to track Twitter traffic for food-borne illness complaints turned up 21 restaurants that failed unannounced health inspections (Harris JK et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63[32]:681-685).

Dubbed Foodborne Chicago, the website uses an algorithm that parses Chicago-area tweets that include the words “food poisoning.” Project staff members then review the tweets for references to stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, or other terms than may indicate food-borne illness. Staff members respond and ask the Twitter users to report on Foodborne Chicago their illness and where they ate. The web forms go directly to the Chicago 311 system that handles nonemergency city services.

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