Reduction of spoilage in fresh and chilled products

Project leader: Joost Snels, MSc
Time frame: 2011 – 2016
Project code: RE002

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Food wastage still is one of the most important topics within the food chain. Following the Dutch and European governments’ commitment to substantially reducing food waste, the Dutch food industry and food retailer sector have taken up the challenge, and are leading the way, as this project demonstrated.

The significant efforts applied to developing new predictive models for microbial spoilage and sensorial decay for fresh-cut iceberg lettuce, minced meat and tenderloin have paid off. New models were developed for the lettuce and the meat. It was shown, for both lettuce and meat, that sensorial decay declines much faster than microbial growth-related quality decay. For fresh-cut iceberg lettuce this means limpness, colour changes (becoming brown and red) and developing off-flavour, and for meat it means discolouration/greying. New algorithms and ‘smart’ order policies have been developed, alongside new models that not only take the more-usual elements into account, but also factor-in the shelf life of the specific consumer package by including the different best-before or use-by dates of the products.

An important milestone was that the delivery of the first operational version of the Decision Support Model (DSS) is ready for use. Due to the involvement of producers and retailers – in both the lettuce and meat chains – real-life data and daily practice and insight were fed into the DSS. These producers and retailers also formulated several innovative scenarios that could considerably reduce food waste at the retailer level. The identification of the most-relevant scenarios and determination of their potential for reducing food wastage, are major results of this project.