This website tracks food poisoning reports at restaurants

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Chipotle restaurant with closed sign
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You might want to check this website before you head out for your next meal!

A little-known website called IWasPoisoned.com offers diners the ability to report food poisoning in an anonymous way.

The goal? To warn other diners away from the restaurant location in question and maybe even alert local health officials to larger patterns of foodborne illness.

RELATED: Move the decimal vs. double the tax: Which restaurant tipping method is better?

You’ll need a strong stomach to read IWasPoisoned.com!

Launched in 2009, IWasPoisoned.com is the brainchild of a former Wall Street banker who got sick after eating a suspect sandwich at a deli in lower Manhattan.

Bloomberg reports founder Patrick Quade got the idea of crowdsourcing reports from restaurant customers as a way to predict movements in the stock prices of major U.S. restaurant chains.

In fact, IWasPoisoned.com has a sister site called DineSafe.org that collates info and trends from the unofficial reports on the public-facing site. Industry players pay $5,000 a month for the real-time analytics, statistical reporting and consumer sentiment readings that Quade’s professional database offers.

But you don’t need to be a Wall Street player to benefit from IWasPoisoned.com. The free site says it can detect outbreaks and frequently works closely with public health agencies in cases where multiple instances of food poisoning are reported stemming from one restaurant or chain.

Such was the case in March 2016 when reports to the website came in from 20 people who took ill after eating at an Applebee’s in Corunna, Mich. IWasPoisoned was able to work with the Shiawassee County Health Department to identify a Norovirus outbreak and shut the restaurant down for a complete sanitization.

That same scenario — anonymous reports coming in on the website leading to a restaurant being shut down and a pathogen outbreak being contained — has been repeated over and over again.

Chipotle, of course, comes to mind in this discussion. The burrito chain experienced widespread outbreaks of foodborne illness in both August 2015 and July 2017 at multiple locations across the country.

Some people wonder about the legality of a site like IWasPoisoned.com. On the face of it, you would think the site is continually getting hit with libel suits by restaurant chains or their shareholders.

Yet we haven’t seen any instances of the website being sued, which isn’t to say it couldn’t happen in the future.

What we can offer is the following guidance if you want publicly complain about a business — be it a restaurant or any other operation:

  • Know your state’s law regarding SLAPP suits. Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) are designed to threaten you with expensive and time-intensive litigation to deter you from posting anything negative.
  • Stick strictly to the facts with your complaint. Keep it short, simple and factual; nothing more and nothing less.
  • Know that your veil of privacy can be pierced. You may think you’re writing a fairly anonymous review, but it is possible that information about your identity, IP address, and location could be subpoenaed at the request of an offended business. The privacy policy of the website where you post your comments isn’t likely to protect you either.
  • Know what to do if you are sued. In the worst case if you are sued, you may be covered by your homeowner’s policy for defamatory statements. Check with your insurer to see.
  • Remember, it all comes back to sticking strictly to the facts. Never post libelous comments that disparage anyone’s character. That’s the best way to stay out of trouble.
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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo has co-written several books with Clark Howard, including the New York Times #1 bestseller Living Large in Lean Times. As a single widowed parent of two young children, he strives to bring unique savings tips to men and women like him who must face life without their spouses. He can be reached at [email protected]
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