I stumbled upon WebMD back in the early days of the internet, and for a burgeoning hypochondriac it was both great and terrible. TBH, most of you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t lain awake at 3am frantically using the Symptom Checker tool and concluding the scrape on your leg is staph, I don’t even know how to interact with you.
But as I was reading about the recent Chipotle norovirus outbreak (don’t judge my news alerts), I came across a magical site that’s about to give WebMD a run for its money in my browser history: IWasPoisoned.com.
I knew that by clicking on it, I was opening myself up to a whole new world of addiction. I knew it wouldn’t end well. For a split second, I debated, the mouse hovering over the hyperlink. Then, just like when you finally hit “Complete Purchase” on an expensive pair of shoes you probably shouldn’t buy, I clicked.
You know when you walk into a place and feel immediately at home, like I’ve found my people? It was like that, but better, because it was the internet and required no in-person contact. This was a whole site of people like me, people very concerned about food safety—public servants, if you will, willing to share intimate details of their food poisoning in the hopes of sparing others a similarly gruesome fate.
If you haven’t picked up on it, I am very paranoid about food poisoning. It wasn’t until two years ago that I began trusting leftovers. I type “food poisoning” into the search bar of a restaurant’s Yelp page before visiting.
This website is both a blessing and a curse. It aims to provide “safer dining by crowdsourcing,” which basically means if you get food poisoning, you can go on the site and report it. You can also search specific places and products to see if someone has reported getting sick in relation to them. The downside is that I have spent hours on the site already. Some reviews are of the no duh variety, like getting ill after eating a chicken feast from a gas station KFC. Chipotle shows up an alarming number of times, so I’m officially never eating there again. (Actually, I’m probably never eating out anywhere ever again, which I guess is good because it’ll save me money and make me healthier.)
It’s alarming and fascinating, this world we live in. I Was Poisoned was actually at the forefront of discovering the norovirus outbreak at the Simi Valley Chipotle (as one reviewer put it, “Chipotle, get your sh*t together”)—keep fighting the good fight, people.
On the upside, not only can the information on the site be used to avoid food poisoning, it can also give you a solid excuse for getting out of plans (“Sorry, I just ate at Chipotle and I think I have food poisoning.”) Using it ad nauseam feels, well, appropriate.