New food illness tracking app getting mixed reviews
Posted at: 08/15/2013 2:37 PM
| Updated at: 08/15/2013 6:38 PM
By: Pat Taney | WHEC.com
There's a new food illness tracking app that may soon be launched in Rochester. Researchers at the University of Rochester have come up with a one of a kind software program to map out food poisoning, but not everyone is sold on the idea.
Dr. Vince Silenzio from the University of Rochester is part of the team that created a program called nEmesis.
Silenzio said, “It's purpose is to try to develop a system that can detect food born illness almost in real time.”
The system tracks tweets by restaurant visitors who claim to be sick and then uses mapping technology to pinpoint where they ate, telling you where to avoid.
U of R researchers performed a four month long test in New York City. In that time, the system collected 3.8 million tweets and found 480 reports of likely food poisoning.
But the new app already has critics.
News10NBC was the first to tell the New York State Restaurant Association about nEmesis and they have major concerns. They are worried it could be used to unfairly slam restaurants either by competitors or angry patrons. President Rick Sampson released a statement saying, “I just think they're looking for trouble. They are not the authorities and should leave the investigation of any potential food poisoning to local health departments, which already performs routine inspections."
But Silenzio says nEmesis does its homework before naming names.
Silenzio said, “nEmesis doesn't rely solely on tweets. It takes the information then checks public records of inspections filed by the Department of Health. So the very same restaurants getting flagged by the system also are getting flagged by failing their health inspections or doing poorly on them.”
Silenzio says it's a win-win for consumers, health departments and even the restaurants themselves.
Silenzio said, “In fact, there's a lot of reason to actually use it and to make sure places are performing well because they want to perform well.”
nEmesis has not yet been launched. Researchers are still making some tweaks to it. They say they want to make sure people cannot spike or manipulate the data, which is a big concern for restaurant owners.
News10NBC reached out to the Monroe County Department of Health to get their thoughts on this. They say it's too early to comment.