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Virginia’s Foodborne Illness Reporting System- My Meal Detective

April 19, 2019 2:04 PM | Amy Bonsell (Administrator)

The My Meal Detective (MMD) was created by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) in 2016. MMD is a public-facing website, managed by a state environmental health (EH) and epidemiology collaborative team, where consumers can easily report foodborne illness.  The MMD survey form (housed on the VDH REDCap server) gathers demographic information, symptomology, and suspected source of illness from the complainant (i.e. a three-day food history). When a survey is submitted, the REDCap system sends an email alert to the MMD inbox for triage by EH staff who forward it to the appropriate local health district and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) Food Safety Program for follow up. A campaign to advertise MMD began in 2018 to promote the website through VDH social media and distribution of magnets with a QR code and MMD logo.

Since the creation of the MMD website in 2016, Virginia received over 900 online complaints of illness. From March through December of 2018, 520 illness complaints were received. Reports were received from complainants residing in twenty-one states and the District of Columbia. The majority of illness complaints received were from those who dined at a Virginia restaurant (N=438) followed by those who purchased food items from grocery or retail stores (N=46). MMD reports led to the identification of six foodborne outbreaks in 2018.

Implementation of the MMD website has improved Virginia’s ability to receive, analyze and respond to foodborne illness complaints and identify foodborne outbreaks.   The continued promotion and advertising of MMD will help raise awareness of the complaint system and educate Virginia consumers on the importance of food safety. 

The Virginia Rapid Response Team (VA RRT) is a multi-agency response team composed of members from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Department of Health, Division of Consolidated Laboratories (state public health lab), United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection System, and the Food and Drug Administration Baltimore District Office Human and Animal Food 2 East. The mission of the VA RRT is to provide a rapid and multi-agency response to food and feed emergencies in order to minimize the social, economic and public health impact.  The VA RRT works in cooperation to provide prevention and educational materials to industry and consumers. Recently, the RRT has provided funding to print and distribute QR code magnets to promote the My Meal Detective Direct Consumer Reporting Website.

Funding for the VA RRT and educational materials was made possible through Grant funding by the Federal Government, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services.

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