OKC Health Dept. Uses Twitter To Learn About Restaurant Health Issues

Wednesday, May 1st 2013, 8:53 pm
By: News 9

Using the power of social media to call out dirty restaurants is becoming more popular, and the Oklahoma City-County Health Department is urging people to do just that.

As soon as a patron sees an issue, they can immediately reach the health department via Twitter at "OKCHealth" and start a complaint process. All of the Tweets are currently managed by just one woman. From her desk at the health department, social media guru Mandy Qualls has her finger on the pulse of Oklahoma County.

"We want to go where the people are," Qualls said. 

The health department wants to hear from people about everything from simple questions to knowing the good, bad and the ugly.

News 9's Michael Konopasek started one of those conversations not long ago at Luigi's Pizza on NW Wilshire Blvd and May Ave in Oklahoma City. The man behind the counter handling the money and making the pizza went directly from the dollar bills to the bowl of cheese without washing his hands.

When News 9 confronted Luigi's Pizza about the concern, the man behind the counter asked News 9 to leave. News 9 asked the health department if Tweeting about that experience was the right move.

"We totally support people getting on Twitter and saying exactly what it is that's on their mind," Qualls said.

Not only does Twitter start the complaint process, but it keeps each account holder's followers in the know.

Tweeting complaints is something restaurants like Zorba's near NW 63rd St and May Ave welcome. Zorba's has a top-notch health record with nothing to hide. Chef Nina Bastani is proud of that record and always strives to keep a clean kitchen.

"[Tweeting the health department] is very important because [dirty restaurants] are going to make people sick, and that's a very important thing to check on," Bastani said.

The social media efforts of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department go well beyond complaints. The department also uses its networks for public health alerts and to promote healthy living.

You can reach the health department on Twitter @OKCHealth.