Food Safety

Published on May 31st, 2014 | by Jill Ettinger


Could Foodborne Illness Outbreaks be Stopped by Yelp?


Yelp, the popular restaurant review (and other services) website, may be helpful in more ways than just showing you where to grab a delicious dinner. If you’ve ever scrolled through those reviews thinking that people were being dramatic when they claimed the food made them sick, you may want to take heed. Turns out the site may indirectly serve as a map to foodborne illness outbreaks.

According to NPR, health officials in New York City recently used Yelp to see if they could track down unreported foodborne illness outbreaks in the city. The research was published in a recent issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The researchers scoured through some 294,000 Yelp reviews posted in a nine-month period between 2012 and 2013. There were 900 reviews that mentioned illnesses including vomiting and diarrhea after eating at certain restaurants. “Of those, nearly 500 people had described an episode consistent with foodborne illness, but only 3 percent of these incidents had been reported to New York City’s non-emergency 311 services,” reported NPR’s The Salt.

The reviews led to inspections of some restaurants that identified issues with proper food handling as well as improper cold food storage, which was linked to three Yelp reports of illness after people ate shrimp and lobster. Other findings included mouse and roach infestations as well as improper utensil storage.

Every year in the U.S., an estimated 50 million people are sickened by foodborne illnesses. “But only a tiny fraction of those cases get reported, making it tough to figure out where they came from,” explains NPR.

Pathogens including salmonella, listeria and e. coli are some of the most common sources of food poisoning. Meat, egg, seafood and dairy products are some of the most common sources for foodborne illnesses as bacteria present in many animals wind up in the food.

Recent food recalls including three walnut recalls, 1.8 million pounds of beef and close to seven tons of hummus are just some examples of how widespread and common foodborne illnesses are.


Keep up with the latest sustainable food news by signing up for our free newsletter. CLICK HERE to sign up!

Tags: , , , , ,

About the Author

Jill Ettinger is co-director of Eat Drink Better. She is the senior editor at and A focus on food, herbs, wellness and world cultural expressions, Jill explores what our shifting food, healing systems and creative landscapes will look, sound and taste like in the future. Stay in touch on Twitter @jillettinger and .

Comments are closed.

Back to Top ↑
  • Support our Site!

  • Let’s Connect!

  • Popular Posts & Pages

    Whether you are looking to completely give up animal products or just want to try eating vegan some of the time, we want to support you! Below, you’ll find articles answering some common questions about vegan cooking and nutrition. If you don’t see your question answered below, please get in touch with us! We are happy to investigate for you!

    Find out what's in season now, plus get plenty of recipe inspiration to help you make the most of every season's beautiful, local fare.

    I love infographics. When I came across this one about what, how, and when to plant vegetables, I thought I’d share. Keep reading after the pic for a few of my own lessons learned.

    Top Sustainable Food Jobs of the Week.

    Looking for an all vegan grocery store? Even if you’re not lucky enough to have one in your town, there are lots of online options for vegan grocery shopping.

  • Search the IM Network

  • The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by, and do not necessarily represent the views of Sustainable Enterprises Media, Inc., its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.