Technology Takes On Shady Restaurants That Have Health Code Violations

Posted on June 4, 2012 by

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“The one thing I love when going out to eat with friends is spending the rest of a fun-filled night in a hospital room, getting my stomach pumped, as everything I ate revisits me in the wrong way.”

Food poisoning has to be one of the worst experiences a person has to suffer through, and yet it happens to people eating at restaurants around the world. According to the US National Library of Medicine, toxins, bacteria, viruses and parasites contaminate food or water that causes food poisoning. We all know the feeling: stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, fever and an intense existential quandary catalyzed by one question: why did I eat that?

Luckily a boom in application development in addition to development platforms that bring those applications to mobile devices is helping to free people from the pain and self-loathing that comes from making a bad restaurant choice.

Technology Is Saving People’s Stomachs From Shady Restaurants

Nobody wants to eat at a restaurant that doesn’t practice good food safety for customers. Yet, unless the restaurant committed enough health code violations that required it to be shut down by a health inspector, there is no real way in knowing if the restaurant has any problems…until now.

An innovative NYU student created an app that you can use right on your mobile phone to determine how many food and health code citations a restaurant has. DontEat.at is an appropriately named Web service that integrates with Foursquare and allows mobile users to see the grades a health inspector gave to a restaurant. The higher the grade is, the more problems that the health inspector found with the restaurant that could lead someone to become ill.

DontEat.At: The First Shot in the War on Bad Food

How it works is simple. The user visits the DontEat.at website and authorizes the link from their Foursquare account. That’s it. The DontEat.at app goes through the public data that is updated weekly as it searches for restaurants that have been flagged with code violations. When you check in to a restaurant at risk of being closed for health violations, the app will send you a text message warning you to vacate the premises.

It’s a stunning reversal, considering the ways that technology has traditionally led us to the food we seek. Now this app will steer us away from the places with known violations. Considering the astronomic growth of mobile devices over the past five years and increased dependency on the mobile internet especially with regard to commerce, it’s surprising that it took this long for such a simple application to exist. It does require access to and quick analysis of all the restaurants in a registry and of course those are only ones that have had multiple violations.

A Glimpse of the Future?

This is a step in the right direction. Businesses with violations are notorious for hiding their restaurant grade if it’s less than acceptable. Mobile application development has become so streamlined concatenate to the exponential adoption of mobile devices, that nearly anyone with free time and dedication can build an application. With luck, DontEat.At will spawn further efforts to use public information and technology to help customers avoid these places. When patrons continue to pass over a restaurant, knowing that its not up to par, perhaps that restaurant will be forced to change its ways or close down, which is in the interest of the greater public good.