The STARTEC Decision Support Tool for Better Tradeoffs between Food Safety, Quality, Nutrition, and Costs in Production of Advanced Ready-to-Eat Foods
A prototype decision support IT-tool for the food industry was developed in the STARTEC project. Typical processes and decision steps were mapped using real life production scenarios of participating food companies manufacturing complex ready-to-eat foods. Companies looked for a more integrated approach when making food safety decisions that would align with existing HACCP systems. The tool was designed with shelf life assessments and data on safety, quality, and costs, using a pasta salad meal as a case product. The process flow chart was used as starting point, with simulation options at each process step. Key parameters like pH, water activity, costs of ingredients and salaries, and default models for calculations of Listeria monocytogenes, quality scores, and vitamin C, were placed in an interactive database. Customization of the models and settings was possible on the user-interface. The simulation module outputs were provided as detailed curves or categorized as "good"; "sufficient"; or "corrective action needed" based on threshold limit values set by the user. Possible corrective actions were suggested by the system. The tool was tested and approved by end-users based on selected ready-to-eat food products. Compared to other decision support tools, the STARTEC-tool is product-specific and multidisciplinary and includes interpretation and targeted recommendations for end-users.