Virtual Reality Could Amp Up Food Safety Training

The Lempert Report: Program allows the user to act as a time-pressured chef who must follow health protocol

Richard Hyde, assistant professor of law and faculty of social sciences at University of Nottingham, is creating a virtual reality experience that will help train individuals in kitchen hygiene.

He writes that with technology rapidly developing, virtual reality (VR) experiences are increasing in complexity and utility. Cheaper and more easily portable VR headsets, when combined with physical spaces that mirror the virtual experience, hold huge potential to alter how training is delivered. 

Food safety and hygiene are hugely important for both the public and the economy he says. Contaminated foods are responsible for a high number of severe illnesses and deaths. In 2011, an E. coli 0104 outbreak killed at least 53 people in the European Union, for example. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States. 

In Hyde’s virtual reality training, the user acts as a chef with an endless queue of customers. She must prepare the food and ensure it is safe to eat. At the same time, she is being tested on whether she remembers to wash her hands or mop the floor. When rats begin to infest the kitchen, the user must decide upon the best course of action. If she fails to prepare the food in a safe or hygienic manner, she watches the customers become ill in front of her. 

With VR, he writes, users can practice in a safe environment where they are able to make mistakes and learn from them. If the experience is recorded, users and trainers can revisit the user’s actions, which is invaluable for providing tailored feedback. Importantly for employers, as large numbers of users can train in parallel, VR can also help overcome tight kitchen space limitations. 

Hyde says that virtual reality has the potential to be a valuable tool for safety training and has the potential to engage employees in a more creative way that could provide disruptive, immersive and stimulating training experiences, which both allows knowledge to be put into practice and enable trainees to appreciate the consequences of their actions. 


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