Dodgy Tummy Trend Spotter
What NEED does this meet?
The number of notified cases of food poisoning in the UK in 2002 was 81,815. Everyone I have spoken to has had at least one dodgy tummy experience in the last year and these cases went unreported. This was because the sufferer didn't consider it serious enough to do anything about, and couldn't say for sure what really had caused it. However, if there was an easy way of entering an 'eating diary' of the day or so prior to being ill (and enough people used it) then it should be possible to correlate this data in such a way as to identify the likely source of the food poisoning. For example, a common denominator in several cases could be an egg sandwich from the same establishment, or common consumption of an in-flight meal. In these cases information can be passed onto the relevant authorities for further investigation. However, many cases will be caused by home preparation of food, and in these case advice can be given on storing, preparation and cooking.
What is the APPROACH?
The plan is to have a website that makes it easy to enter the relevant food and provenance data (what was eaten and where it was bought) and collate the data in such a way to allow a likely source of the food poisoning/illness to be identified. The important points in this process are:
1. Entry of data must be quick, friendly and easy in order to encourage re-use of the system (as good results rely on a large sample size).
2. Data must be stored in a way to make comparison and crosschecking between different users' information possible.
3. Where possible there should be some immediate feedback of the likely source to encourage usage of the site.
4. Contributors would be kept informed of developments of their incident by email.
What are the BENEFITS to people?
1. Individual contributors are told the most likely source of stomach upsets, along with practical advice on preventing it happening again wherever possible. 2. Promotes safer and more hygienic food preparation and cooking in the home. 3. Commercial sources of food poisoning will be identified faster, preventing further, and potentially more serious, cases from occurring.
What is the COMPETITION?
The Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) maintains a database of food-poisoning cases - but this only includes cases that were reported to GPs, and where the GP carried out further tests and submitted a report to the PHLS. Most cases are not reported. This proposed system will contain a much larger number of more minor stomach upsets, making trend spotting and data analysis possible.
What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The main expenses of the system will be: 1. Creating/hosting the website. 2. Specialist health knowledge will be needed to formulate rules and write advice. 3. Up-to-date database of UK businesses selling/serving food. e.g. live information from on-line yellow pages. This will be required to let contributors pick visited eating establishments from a list to ensure accuracy.
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