Social media helps Public Health England in food poisoning investigation

Twitter and Facebook aided investigators from PHE (Public Health England) in an investigation into the cause of an outbreak of food poisoning at the Street Spice Festival in Newcastle Upon Tyne last year. The street festival took place between 28th February and 2nd March 2013 and investigators used the social media sites to identify individuals who were showing symptoms of food poisoning in the area.

Through the help of social media PHE investigators managed to connect the sufferers with a coconut chutney that had been available at the festival and found that it was made using contaminated curry leaves.

The team managed to trace the outbreak back to those particular leaves because the identified source of the infection, Salmonella Agona, is a strain that hasn’t been seen in Britain before and is strongly associated with raw curry leaves.

A consultant in health protection, Dr Kirsty Foster said:

“In this case we were very fortunate in that there were some left over leaves from the event”.

The curry leaves were imported to the UK from Pakistan before the event.