VR technology aids food safety training


The Daily Illini File Photo

A customer purchases food from a festival food vendor. New VR technology has been created to help educate food handlers of temporary local establishments.

By Madalyn Velisaris, Staff Writer

Many people who do not think twice when ordering food from a concession stand at a local fair might be unaware that food handlers from temporary food establishments do not have to go through educational training on food safety risks in Champaign-Urbana.

Jim Roberts, environmental health director of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, said he is proposing a food ordinance to require temporary food vendors to receive food safety education using a virtual reality training module.

“If the food ordinance goes through as planned, training will begin around Jan. 1,” Roberts said.

Food safety training will be a requirement for temporary food establishments to receive a permit, whereas currently, CUPHD could only recommend that someone certified in food protection manager training be in charge of the establishment.

Roberts said having food safety training is important for temporary food establishments, and there must be certain controls in place to help shrink food safety risks. The VR training module is a means to accomplish that.

The module was created in partnership with the CUPHD and the Healthcare Engineering Systems Center specifically for temporary food vendors, Roberts said.

The VR scenario provides applications for public health services in real-life settings, like stalls at fairs, said Kesh Kesavadas, director of the Healthcare Engineering Systems Center and professor in Engineering.

“What virtual reality does is it actually puts you right in the middle of a tent … and you actually watch what’s going on around you, and you notice things that should not be there, and it actually tells when there is a mistake done at the point,” he said.

Kesavadas said the center finished its first module for the project and showcased it at the end of July.

The Healthcare Engineering Systems Center created the scenario, filmed it in a 360-degree setting and used software to create a step-by-step process to train people on food safety, he said.

“We are hoping that (the VR training module) will in fact have a much wider audience, both locally and in central Illinois and outside of Illinois,” Kesavadas said.

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