1 National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark2 Division of Food Microbiology, National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark3 University of Copenhagen4 Videncenter for fødevarer og sundhed
More and more meals and meal components are being prepared outside the home by caterers often in a semi-industrialized scale. In Denmark it is estimated that one third of the food consumed is prepared within the catering sector. This includes canteens, meals-on-wheels, restaurants and fast-food outlets, hospitals and nursing homes, nurseries etc. Often a great variety of raw materials and cooking processes are used. This requires a high degree of food safety know-how and management skills in the kitchens. Although a short course in food hygiene is mandatory, the labour force may be transient and without an integrated understanding of food safety issues. Information technology can be used to help transform expert knowledge into safer working procedures. A software and a database platform has been developed setting safe performance criteria for heating and cooling processes for different types of foods depending on e.g. whether the food is to be eaten at once or kept chill stored afterwards. These factors have been incorporated into a commercial software calculating process criteria. The soft ware is user friendly and it is gaining popularity both with the production sites and the inspection officers. A simple questionnaire helps the production site to identify the critical control points and target values. Danish style open-faced sandwiches as well as other sandwiches constitute a major part of the meals and they are characterized by not being heated prior to consumption and by the mix of different heat-treated and raw ingredients. For this purpose other types of data such as germination and relative lag time data at different chill temperatures are currently being generated and validated for incorporation in order to create an even more versatile IT tool. This tool can be integrated with time-temperature sensors sending warnings regarding the end of safe shelf life.