Decision Support Tools for optimal food products

Food business operators must make daily decisions about food safety and quality, often based on limited scientific data, or full knowledge of the consequences of deviations for the consumer, due to the limited capacity to carry out analyses and risk assessments.

This project will develop the necessary tools based on scientific evidence and predictive and probabilistic models to enable food operators to estimate the quality and safety level in their products (ready-to-eat foods) if alternative ingredients, process and storage conditions are applied. Pathogens to be studied include Listeria, monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enterica, Bacillus cereus, Verotoxinproducing E.coli (VTEC) and Clostridium spp, as well as Staphylococcus toxins. High-pressure treatment, dielectric heating, biopreservation and packing technologies will be investigated. Food quality factors will also be assessed. The project focuses in particular on vulnerable consumers where increased quality and safety levels are needed, e.g. patients at nursing homes, hospitals, old and sick people living at home. The project will run for three years and involves eight participants, of which five are SMEs.

Producers of convenience and RTE products will be actively involved in the project as well as experts in food microbiology, food chemistry, food process technology, information technology and modelling, laboratory analytical methods, cost-benefit analysis and risk assessment. The decision-making tool to be developed will enable the SME operator to quantify and manage spoilage and pathogen risks in a way which is not currently possible. A cost-benefit module will be included in the tool, allowing the food providers to compare quality, safety and costs of their actions or any abuse conditions along the food supply chain. A prototype of the tool will be tested and validated during the project.

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