The motivation behind developing nEmesis was simple: foodborne illnesses affect millions of Americans every year, leading to tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths in the US alone. Public Health authorities here and around the world make enormous efforts to track down sources of food poisoning, and prevent these illnesses from occurring. But these efforts rely on tools such as restaurant inspections, which can be slow, cumbersome, and imperfect. To approach this challenge, Public Health authorities, and the public, need newer, more rapid tools.

With this in mind, nEmesis was developed. nEmesis is the brainchild of Adam Sadilek, Sean Brennan, and Henry Kautz, with assistance from Vince Silenzio. Building on their prior work, the researchers wondered if you could tell you how likely it is for you to become ill if you visit a particular restaurant by 'listening' to the tweets from other restaurant patrons. By doing just that, nEmesis, can help people make more informed decisions. It also has the potential to complement traditional public health methods for monitoring food safety, such as restaurant inspections. For example, it could enable what they call "adaptive inspections," inspections guided in part by the real-time information that nEmesis provides.

A copy of the paper, which was first presented at HCOMP 2013 (AAAI Conference on Human Computation and Crowdsourcing) in Palm Springs, California, can be found here:

Read the paper (PDF)

nEmesis in the News:

“There’s a Fly in My Tweets”, Henry Kautz, The New York Times, June 21, 2013
“Tracker Maps Reports Of Food Poisoning On Twitter: Mining tweets for illness-related complaints can tell us what restaurants to avoid when”, Shaunacy Ferro, Popular Science, August 7, 2013
“Tracking Twitter May Enhance Monitoring Of Food Safety At Restaurants”, Newsroom America, August 7, 2013
“Twitter Knows Which Restaurants Are Getting People Sick”, Meghan Neal, Motherboard, August 7, 2013
“New Twitter-Based App Tracks Food Poisoning: Could It Prevent The Next Cyclospora Outbreak?”, Nsikan Akpan, Medical Daily, August 8, 2013
“Tracking Twitter may enhance monitoring of food safety at restaurants”, e! Science News, August 8, 2013
“A way to tell which eatery can leave you sick found”, The Times of India, August 9, 2013
“Can Twitter Predict Where You'll Get Food Poisoning?”, Jennie Xie, The Atlantic Cities, August 12, 2013
“Twitter alert system that tells diners where to avoid”, Murad Ahmed, The Times of London, August 15, 2013