Pick your poison: How a crowdsourcing app helped identify and reduce food poisoning

Alex Papas at LATimes: “At some point in life, almost everyone will have experienced the debilitating effects of a foodborne illness. Whether an under-cooked chicken kebab, an E. coli infested salad or some toxic fish, a good day can quickly become a loathsome frenzy of vomiting and diarrhoea caused by poorly prepared or poorly kept food.

Since 2009, the website iwaspoisoned.com has allowed victims of food-poisoning victims to help others avoid such an ordeal by crowd-sourcing food illnesses on one easy-to-use, consumer-led platform.

Whereas previously a consumer struck down by food poisoning may have been limited to complaining to the offending food outlet, IWasPosioned allows users to submit detailed reports of food-poisoning incidents – including symptoms, location and space to describe the exact effects and duration of the incident. The information is then transferred in real time to public health organisations and food industry groups, who  use the data to flag potentially dangerous foodborne illness before a serious outbreak occurs.

In the United States alone, where food safety standards are among the highest in the world, there are still 48 million cases of food poisoning per year. From those cases, 128,000 result in hospitalisation and 3,000 in death, according to data from the U.S. Food and Drug Association.

Back in 2008 the site’s founder, Patrick Quade, himself fell foul to food poisoning after eating a BLT from a New York deli which caused him to be violently ill. Concerned by the lack of options for reporting such incidents, he set up the novel crowdsourcing platform, which also aims at improving transparency in the food monitoring industry.

The emergence of IWasPoisoned is part of the wider trend of consumers taking revenge against companies via digital platforms, which spans various industries. In the case of IWasPoisoned, reports of foodborne illness have seriously tarnished the reputations of several major food retailers….(More)”.