Yelp is a popular service that is used by millions of people around the world to research about venues they might be interested in visiting. Users often post reviews of restaurants they visit and if they don’t like it they can warn other diners. Its up to people how seriously they take a restaurant’s bad reviews but they might not be the only ones reading. Health officials in New York City are using Yelp reviews to trace unreported outbreaks of food poisoning.

According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has completed a pilot project in which they used Yelp reviews to track outbreaks. A software developed by Columbia University was used through which more than 294,000 Yelp reviews were fed over a period of nine months.

The officials searched for particular words like “vomit,” “sick” and “diarrhea” along with other details. After weeding through all reviews the officials found three instances where 16 people had fallen sick after eating similar dishes at three restaurants. Unfortunately they’re not naming the restaurants so New Yorkers will have to watch out for themselves.

The department’s officials say that the project will continue and that now they’re looking through the reviews daily as opposed to weekly during the pilot project. Acting on the information they were able to pinpoint restaurants where hygiene practices were not being followed. At one restaurant officials found evidence of mice and even live roaches.

Filed in General. Read more about Yelp.

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