When one user claims on a review site that a meal made them sick, you can put it down to unfortunate coincidence – or if you want to be super-cynical about it, a user trying to get their own back after a crappy eating experience.
But when 11 such allegations pop up about the same restaurant, describing the same symptoms, then you know something is probably amiss.
“We ate there on Friday, March 20. I ended up in the ER for several hours.”
“We had lunch there Thursday, March 19. One of my coworkers got so sick that she spent three days in the hospital.”
That's the logic that Los Angeles health officials followed when they decided to investigate Don Antonio's Mexican restaurant in the west of the city – and despite having previously received an 'A' rating, the list of offences according to the LA Times made for pretty staggering reading:
- No food thermometers
- Inadequate ventilation and lighting
- Improper use and storage of wiping cloths used to wipe service counters, scales, and other surfaces that food may come into contact with
- Unapproved equipment and utensils
- Potentially hazardous food stored at improper holding temperatures
- Issues with improperly sanitized food contact surfaces.
And now the restaurant, which has predominantly positive reviews and a 3.5-star average on Yelp, is being taken to court by two of the alleged victims of food poisoning.
Tamara Tavarani and Margaret Howard are seeking unspecified damages on the basis of negligence and emotional trauma – and their lawyer says that the internet is a game-changer when it comes to spotting outbreaks of food poisoning, such as the one alleged here, that would previously have proved impossible to track.
More and more food-borne illness outbreaks are being cracked by customers taking to social media like Yelp and Twitter. Local, state and national departments of health are monitoring social media as an early warning for food-borne illness outbreaks
Hopefully nothing like this ever comes about in Dublin – but if it does, it's good to know that the power of social media is always there to give us a dig-out.