Getting food poisoning once is frightening enough.

Dealing with it multiple times is scary, disheartening, and downright disturbing. Not to mention physically and emotionally painful.

And that’s exactly what happened to Patrick Quade. On three different occasions, he was struck with a foodborne illness.

This, in turn, has motivated Patrick to take on the mission of a seriously passionate food safety advocate. Today, in our interview with Patrick, he shares how he’s been affected by foodborne illness, what he’s doing to prevent it, and how you can partner with him.

Q: Patrick, tell us about your food poisoning experiences and the impact they’ve had on your personal/professional life.

A: I’ve had food poisoning a few times, and, for me, they’ve been incredibly brutal experiences. I’m relatively fit and healthy, so I was able to weather those events with no lasting adverse impact on my health. And I’m very thankful for that.

But, there’s one case that hit close to home that made me realize just how much is at stake when the victim’s health is more fragile. This was when my sister went through a terrible bout of food poisoning just after the birth of her first child. And, to make matters worse, there was no family close by to help.

Q: When and why did you decide to create your website, IWasPoisoned.com?

A: I created my website in 2009, right after going through a very painful, violent case of food poisoning. At a low point during that time, I decided I would do something. My resolve to build the site was strengthened soon after that – because of my sister’s food poisoning – and even more during my research as I learned about the truly tragic outcomes from food poisoning that happen every single year.

Q: How is your site helping various stakeholders including victims of foodborne illness, industry, and government?

A: It’s evolving as the site continues to grow.

At this stage, the main benefit comes from restaurants being able to monitor reports as they come in and reach out to users through the site with the aim of helping victims and learning what happened. This is a great outcome so far, and I expect to see more of this down the line.

We’ll be launching new initiatives soon including benchmarking and comparative analysis, which we expect to be useful to the food industry. There are many fascinating statistics that emerge from collecting so many reported incidents. Some are quite surprising. We’re diligently analyzing these stats to find the best way to use them.

We’ve noticed some cases where government agencies mine Yelp reviews and Tweets related to food poisoning reports to help direct inspections. We think IWasPoisoned.com is a perfect source for that, so we’re excited to help in this way, too.

Q: What is your single biggest concern when it comes to food poisoning and why?

A: My biggest concern is the relative lack of accountability and lack of recourse against offending restaurants.

I was particularly frustrated during my most recent foodborne illness experience when I called the restaurant where I thought I contracted it. Immediately, I was dismissed. The restaurant manager told me, flat out, I was wrong. Now, I realize it’s quite possible I was wrong. But, it’s also possible that I, along with many others, got food poisoning there that night.

From that point, I was determined to set up a platform where food poisoning was taken more seriously and positive action is encouraged.

This lack of accountability and recourse is a major concern for me because there simply isn’t much incentive for restaurants to change. IWasPoisoned.com brings a level of accountability and transparency that’ll hopefully inspire the food industry to do better.

Q: When did you learn about STOP Foodborne Illness and how are you partnering with them?

A: I came across STOP in mid-2014 and am very excited that we’re now exploring ways to work together.
IWasPoisoned.com will initially feature promotions and links to encourage our users to visit STOP’s website to donate, sign up for e-Alerts so that they’re aware of recalls and outbreaks, and get involved in their excellent, life-saving programs. I’m looking forward to the possibility of expanding our partnership, too, as we move forward together.

Q: For STOP’s readers, what would you like them to do as it relates to your website/mission?

A: First and foremost, I acknowledge there is a fundamental difference in approach between STOP Foodborne Illness & Iwaspoisoned.com. While STOP encourages victims of foodborne illness to get tested and, if possible, have a culture-confirmation that links their illness to a specific time and place. Iwaspoisoned is more akin to a real time monitor, with necessarily a lesser degree of accuracy – and as such single reports are not conclusive. However large clusters of reports around a venue or source of food can be a powerful indicator. I strongly believe that when consumers start speaking up we will be able to help make restaurants more aware, but until that time food safety may not get the priority it deserves from some businesses.

I’d really like STOP’s members to visit www.IWasPoisoned.com and tell their story, and encourage friends and family to report if they believe they are a victim. The more participants we have on our site, the greater possibility that food poisoning will be taken more seriously. And every single food consumer will be better off for it.

About Patrick Quade

A native Australian, Patrick is the founder of www.IWasPoisoned.com. After suffering from several painful foodborne illnesses, Patrick became inspired to educate others about food safety with a specific focus on tightening up regulations to help make our food as safe as possible. An avid musician and tech geek, Patrick grew up in a small farming community. When he left the farm, Patrick graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce and now lives in New York City, working in finance.  You can reach out and say “Hi” to Patrick at patrick@iwaspoisoned.com.

February 2015