The Virginia Food Safety Task Force has been in existence for over 10 years. It is a public-private partnership that provides a platform for sharing ideas and lessons learned in regards to food safety. The task force has several main objectives. The first objective is for people to get to know players involved in food safety for if a foodborne outbreak, major recall, or food-related event happens, the time contacting the right person is decreased which could be key in stopping outbreaks or reducing illnesses. Another important objective is getting to know agencies/industries capabilities, strengths, and lessons learned from mistakes. The task force has the different members involved give presentations about their organization so everybody has a better understanding of what players bring to the table in terms of resources, responsibilities, and regulatory authority. Thirdly, an objective that both publicly funded agencies and private industry share is a decrease in foodborne illness. The best way to decrease foodborne illness is through education of not only those involved in food industry, but also consumers. The easiest way for the task force to accomplish the aforementioned objectives is to continue to have quarterly meetings and an annual conference. Without face-to-face meetings and a conference, it would be extremely difficult to accomplish the third objective. The conference is where the task force hands out most of its educational materials, namely multi-lingual hand washing stickers and proper glove use posters. These tools are essential for educating food industry workers about proper procedures which could reduce foodborne illness.
The Virginia Food Safety Task Force has been in place for over 10 years. It is a public-private partnership with members from the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (state public health lab), federal food safety partners, universities with food microbiology and cooperative extension programs, and industry. The partnership has led to the development of multi-lingual educational materials, hand washing stickers and proper glove use posters, and an open line of communication where food safety initiatives and lessons can be shared. In order to continue the partnerships and communication established by the task force, it is essential that we continue to have quarterly meetings and hold annual conferences. In addition to the benefits of face-to-face interaction, these meetings, provide the opportunity to keep members abreast of current information such as changes in legislature. In addition these events allow the task force to distribute educational materials to members and non-members alike. The distribution of educational materials to those in food service, especially on hand washing and proper glove use is important in educating food service workers about proper procedures thus decreasing the likelihood of spreading disease to customers. Decreasing foodborne illness is a goal that both public agencies and private industry strive to achieve.