If a Restaurant Critic Gets Food Poisoning, Can They Mention It In The Review?


Last year, a man in Orange County, California got sick, and he blamed it on something funky he ate. This happens to almost everyone sooner or later, and we spend the subsequent hours over the toilet, cursing the miscreant griddle or cutting board that we believe to be at fault. While most of us are mere mortals, the aforementioned man was a food critic, and he used his platform to demand that Orange County issue health inspection letter-grades to restaurants because of his unfortunate stomach bug.

The critic, Brad A. Johnson of the Orange County Register, wrote, "I was planning to review a restaurant in Newport Beach this week. Instead, I got food poisoning there. Everyone at my table got sick. Unspeakably sick. For days. It was awful." After some investigating, Johnson found that the restaurant had a record of health inspection violations. An editor's note mentions that the paper was "not identifying the restaurants involved in this report." Their explanation was that because "nearly half of Orange County restaurants would not receive an A under the letter-grade system, the problem addressed here is widespread. Rather than single out specific eateries for violations, the goal of this column is to show a systemwide problem."

But would it be fair—or even ethical—for a professional restaurant critic to so much as allude to a post-meal illness in a review?

"No, food critics are not allowed to mention that they got food poisoning at a restaurant," says Eater restaurant critic Robert Sietsema. "For one thing, they are not medical experts, and I think even an internist would be hesitant to attribute food poisoning to a particular establishment." Plenty of things can make you sick, and pinpointing a specific eatery or dish is incredibly difficult—and proving so after the publication of a review, which usually occurs weeks or months after the critics' last visit to the restaurant, is even harder.

And since being incognito is the name of the game for restaurant critics, throwing samples from every course into baggies for future lab testing could be slightly counterproductive.

Even amateur food critics (read: anyone with the Internet) are capable of becoming snagged in this ethical quagmire. "The reputation of many otherwise decent restaurants has been ruined by careless (and probably libelous) use of social media to proclaim, 'I got food poisoning there, so stay away,'" says Sietsema.

So puke your heart out, drink some ginger ale, and eat a few saltines—but use caution and sense if you choose to broadcast the identity of the eatery that was allegedly at fault to the world. If you are mistaken, that won't sit well with anyone.

(Note: If your illness is serious, go see a medical professional—their review is the only one that matters.)

A paragraph regarding incubation periods for foodborne illnesses has been removed. Many take days, but others are more immediate. For more information, visit the CDC's website here.

Why Are Mugshots Made Public Before a Suspect is Convicted by the Court?

Jennifer Ellis:

Several reasons.

1. Mugshots can help find people when they have absconded, or warn people when someone is out and dangerous. So there is a good reason to share some mugshots.

2. Our legal system requires openness as per the federal constitution, and I imagine most if not all state constitutions. As such, this sort of information is not considered private and can be shared. Any effort to keep mugshots private would result in lawsuits by the press and lay people. This would be under the First and Sixth Amendments as well as the various Freedom of Information Acts. However, in 2016 a federal court ruled [PDF] that federal mugshots are no longer routinely available under the federal FOIA.

This is partially in recognition of the damage that mugshots can do online. In its opinion, the court noted that “[a] disclosed booking photo casts a long, damaging shadow over the depicted individual.” The court specifically mentions websites that put mugshots online, in its analysis. “In fact, mugshot websites collect and display booking photos from decades-old arrests: BustedMugshots and JustMugshots, to name a couple.” Some states have passed or are looking to pass laws to prevent release of mugshots prior to conviction. New Jersey is one example.

a) As the federal court recognizes, and as we all know, the reality is that if your picture in a mugshot is out there, regardless of whether you were convicted, it can have an unfortunate impact on your life. In the old days, this wasn’t too much of a problem because it really wasn’t easy to find mugshots. Now, with companies allegedly seeking to extort people into paying to get their images off the web, it has become a serious problem. Those companies may get in trouble if it can be proved that they are working in concert, getting paid to take the picture off one site and then putting it on another. But that is rare. In most cases, the picture is just public data to which there is no right of privacy under the law.

b) The underlying purpose of publicity is to avoid the government charging people and abusing the authority to do so. It was believed that the publicity would help protect people. And it does when you have a country that likes to hide what it is up to. But, it also can cause harm in a modern society like ours, where such things end up on the web and can cause permanent damage. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a catch-22. We have the right to know issues and free speech rights smack up against privacy rights and serious damage of reputation for people who have not been convicted of a crime. The law will no doubt continue to shake out over the next few years as it struggles to catch up with the technology.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

What Happens When You Flush an Airplane Toilet?

For millions of people, summer means an opportunity to hop on a plane and experience new and exciting sights, cultures, and food. It also means getting packed into a giant commercial aircraft and then wondering if you can make it to your next layover without submitting to the anxiety of using the onboard bathroom.

Roughly the size of an apartment pantry, these narrow facilities barely accommodate your outstretched knees; turbulence can make expelling waste a harrowing nightmare. Once you’ve successfully managed to complete the task and flush, what happens next?

Unlike our home toilets, planes can’t rely on water tanks to create passive suction to draw waste from the bowl. In addition to the expense of hauling hundreds of gallons of water, it’s impractical to leave standing water in an environment that shakes its contents like a snow globe. Originally, planes used an electronic pump system that moved waste along with a deodorizing liquid called Anotec. That method worked, but carrying the Anotec was undesirable for the same reasons as storing water: It raised fuel costs and added weight to the aircraft that could have been allocated for passengers. (Not surprisingly, airlines prefer to transport paying customers over blobs of poop.)

Beginning in the 1980s, planes used a pneumatic vacuum to suck liquids and solids down and away from the fixture. Once you hit the flush button, a valve at the bottom of the toilet opens, allowing the vacuum to siphon the contents out. (A nonstick coating similar to Teflon reduces the odds of any residue.) It travels to a storage tank near the back of the plane at high speeds, ready for ground crews to drain it once the airplane lands. The tank is then flushed out using a disinfectant.

If you’re also curious about timing your bathroom visit to avoid people waiting in line while you void, flight attendants say the best time to go is right after the captain turns off the seat belt sign and before drink service begins.

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