Foodservice Equipment Reports

Chicago Tries Twitter To Monitor Foodborne Illnesses

Tweets are the newest way to monitor foodborne illness and restaurants in need of health inspections in the city of Chicago.

The Chicago Department of Public Health is using Twitter to monitor the city for restaurants that may be in need of health inspections. The department's dedicated Twitter bot, twitter.com/foodbornechi, and an online complaint form, FoodborneChicago.org, have helped identify more than 130 restaurants for inspections over the last 10 months. Of those operations, 21 failed inspection and another 33 passed with "critical or serious" violations.

The Foodborne Chicago program tracked Twitter messages that included the phrase "food poisoning" to identify "specific instances of persons with complaints of foodborne illness."

Tweets identified by the algorithm were reviewed by project staff members for physically manifested indications of foodborne illness from food prepared outside of the home. Project staff members provided feedback on whether each tweet fit the criteria, enabling the algorithm to learn and become more effective over time.

Chicago now is working with Boston's and New York City's health departments to gauge the usefulness of similar programs in those cities.