Attempted Food Poisoning Detection by Social Media a Huge Risk

An abundance of media coverage on how tweets could alert people to food poisoning risk has sparked great concerns within the worldwide hospitality sector. (See links to news articles below)

Owners of restaurants and hotels have been contacting KwikChex for advice as we are currently already in the process of taking action on the huge amount of unsubstantiated allegations of food poisoning that already exist on various types of social media resources.

Our own research has shown that such resources are particularly poor in accurately determining food poisoning risk - and that they fail to protect the public and also risk defamation and intentionally malicious campaigns against entirely innocent and reputable businesses.

If the system being described could be harnessed to alert the authorities when there are any 'hot-spots' of reports of illness related to a particular restaurant - i.e., multiple reports within a short time period, it would be an excellent idea - with the authorities able to follow up rapidly and check whether there are any food hygiene problems and act accordingly,

But - if the data is to be released without such verification to the public and with isolated and unproven allegations, the consequences for authors, publishers and businesses could be hugely damaging.

In surveys previously carried out by KwikChex on online food poisoning allegations found that almost none of the businesses accused were likely to have been responsible (based on official hygiene inspections, follow ups with other customers that ate the same food / same time - and on elements such as likely incubation periods for food related illness.

More disturbingly, we have found deliberately false allegations being posted to damage businesses - and attempts to coerce owners into paying entirely unjustified compensation.

Just as with other unproven content, the Twitter system would be astonishingly easy to corrupt and damage innocent businesses.

Conversely, we also found that resources such as TripAdvisor and other reviews sites were also very poor in actually identifying the businesses that actually had been guilty of serious breaches of food hygiene.

Here's a great recent example picked at random

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/rotten-food-faeces-and-a-dead-mouse-owner-of-filthy-restaurant-fined-15000-8589133.html

Here's their TripAdvisor listing - http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g186338-d698011-Reviews-Abu_Ali-London_England.html

And here's a Google search of other reviews  https://www.google.co.uk/#safe=off&sclient=psy-ab&q=abou+ali+lebanese+george+street+reviews&oq=abou+ali+lebanese+george+street+reviews&gs_l=hp.3...20169.22244.2.22946.8.8.0.0.0.0.181.1262.0j8.8.0....0.0..1c.1.20.hp._fJMIKZb-V4&psj=1&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.49967636%2Cd.ZWU%2Cpv.xjs.s.en_US.jOYpRJj4zMA.O&fp=d199f7005d2ad060&biw=1366&bih=643

'Opinions' aren't safe - protection for consumers and businesses should come from reports to the authorities and with the use of verified information. Check the same restaurant on the UK Food Standards Agency ratings facility. - http://ratings.food.gov.uk/enhanced-search/en-GB/abu%20ali/george%20street%20london/alpha/0/%5E/%5E/1/1/10

You can download a mobile app on your phone too. More and more of these resources are being provided across the world - and consumers should be encouraged to use them wherever they are available to check, to seek advice and to report suspected cases - and governments around the world need to expand and support such resources.

KwikChex has provided a dedicated site for consumers and businesses on this subject - Food Poisoning Help - http://foodpoisoninghelp.info/

Links to news articles re the Twitter-led system

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2387111/nEmesis-software-listens-tweets-reveal-restaurants-make-ill.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10245159/Twitter-could-prevent-food-poisoning.html

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-13/health/ct-met-twitter-food-poisoning-20130809_1_food-poisoning-smart-chicago-collaborative-health-department

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