Food Safety

The Centers for Disease Control says there may be as many as 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses every year in the United States, costing the economy more than $150 billion and resulting in around 3,000 deaths. We talk with two food safety experts about the impact new technologies are having in keeping our food safe. Joining us is Robert Brackett, director of Illinois Institute for Technology's Institute for Food Safety and Health, and Eric Larson, president of Safe Food International Holdings and a board member of the Nutrition Roundtable at the School of Public Health.

Read an article below.

Food Poisoning; There's An App For That

Click image to view larger versionThe Chicago Department of Health’s Food Protection Service receives some 5,800 complaints each year, triggering investigations into food poisoning at around 170 restaurants.

With 16,000 restaurants in the city but less than 40 inspectors, the city has set an interim goal of visiting all high-risk restaurants at least once a year. However, health experts say it should aim to visit high-risk establishments at least twice a year.

Any complaint filed with the Chicago Department of Health is supposed to trigger an inspection within 24 hours. But a report by the Chicago Tribune in September found Chicago’s inspection regime to be falling short.

One way the Chicago Department of Health is trying to get more data on food-related illnesses is by reaching out to people with food poisoning on Twitter to encourage them to file a complaint.

Foodborne, a project developed by the Smart Chicago Collaborative, uses Twitter to track down cases of foodborne illness by using software to scan Twitter feeds for references to “food poison” sent by people who identify themselves as Chicagoans.

Since the program was launched in March of last year, Foodborne Chicago has found 2,446 tweets that mention “food poison”. Of those, Foodborne Chicago contacted 283 people via Twitter. Those contacts led to 210 complaints being filed through the Foodborne Chicago site.

~By Paul Caine and Taurean Small

Brackett and Larson will be leading a discussion called "Is This Safe to Eat?" presented by the Chicago Council on Science & Technology on Wednesday, March 12 at 5:00 pm at Northwestern University's Chicago campus in Huges Auditorium, 303 E. Superior St.