Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Support tools to ensure safe, tasty and nutritious advanced ready-to-eat foods for healthy and vulnerable consumers (Food Quality and Safety)

Project acronym: STARTEC

Title of project: Support tools to ensure safe, tasty and nutritious advanced ready-to-eat foods for healthy and vulnerable consumers

Research area: Food Quality and Safety

Contract No: 289262

EU contribution: €2 946 283

Start date: February 2012

Duration: 36 months

Status: on-going

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

This project is developing tools based on scientific evidence and predictive and probabilistic models to enable food operators to estimate what the quality and safety level of their products (ready-to-eat foods) would be if alternative ingredients, process and storage conditions were applied. Different pathogens are being studied, as well as the influence of high pressure treatment, dielectric heating, biopreservation and packing technologies. Food quality factors will also be assessed.

The project focuses in particular on vulnerable consumers, for whom increased quality and safety levels are needed, e.g. patients in nursing homes, hospitals, the elderly and those suffering from poor health.

The project runs for three years and involves eight participants, of which five are SMEs. Producers of convenience and RTE products are actively involved, 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 under development 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, as well as the costs of their actions, and any risks along the food supply chain. A prototype of the tool will be tested and validated during the project.

Main objectives:

  1. To assess supply chains, food production processes and food safety and quality management systems in target food companies – manufacturers of raw and heat-treated ready-to-eat and convenience products prepared from meat, seafood, dairy and vegetables.
  2. To evaluate and model the growth and survival of pathogens, toxin production and degradation, as well as quality changes (including organoleptical and nutrition loss) in food model systems when different ingredients are combined. The evaluation will be based on current scientific data and new experiments.
  3. To assess the effectiveness of conventional and new preservation techniques, as well as intelligent packing and time-temperature monitoring technologies on food quality and safety, and investigate whether any of these approaches can be used as an extra ‘safety switch’, ‘quality switch’ or ‘nutrition switch’ when enhanced products are needed.
  4. To carry out cost-benefit analyses related to the production of standard and enhanced ready-to-eat and convenience foods.
  5. To develop a user friendly IT tool (to prototype level) and guidelines for rapid food safety risk assessment and decision support in a cost/benefit perspective.
  6. To validate tools and strategies for improvement of the quality and safety of standard and enhanced ready-to-eat and convenience foods. 
  7. To disseminate the results to key stakeholders, including food business operators, food authorities and food policy makers.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Taran Skjerdal,

Organisation: National Veterinary Institute, Norway,