Labo test scan

Proactive food safety control for the food industry

Why this project?

Belgian food is known for its quality and reliability, including where food safety is concerned. However, food safety is an issue that continuously needs upgrading. By prioritising proactivity and prevention in food safety through thorough validation of production equipment and by embedding food safety culture in the entire organisation’s ethos and, consequently, in employee thinking, the Belgian food industry is bound to retake the lead vis-à-vis the (foreign) competition.

Research approach and expected results

Q-DNA is a three-year collective research, development, and dissemination project (COOCK type) that aims to boost food company food safety levels by focusing on two complementary pillars: technology and labour organisation.

To this end, the project will develop state-of-the-art tools and methods for food companies to implement, including:

  • Pillar 1: process validation methods that guarantee that food safety hazards are reduced throughout the production process and the production equipment used, which allows the company to produce safe, high-quality food (process validation).
  • Pillar 2: management tools that contribute to a positive food safety culture at every level and in every department of the company (food safety culture).

Specifically, that means:

  • continued development of the collection of safe surrogate strains for validation of microbial inactivation by industrial production processes (3 generic case studies)
  • the development and validation of tools and methodologies in practice to introduce and implement a robust food safety culture in the Flemish food industry (4 generic case studies)
  • distribution of newly acquired expertise to the food companies in the hopes that it will catch on quickly with the target group

To that end, researchers will convert their research into pragmatic tools for the industry, which Flanders’ FOOD will then distribute more broadly. In the Flemish food industry, both issues are still very much in their infancy.

Target group

This project targets all Flemish food companies. The tools developed by the project, including the surrogate strains available, will enable companies to fully capitalise on the human factor at the organisational level and guarantee product quality, hygiene and food safety.

Project partners

Flanders’ FOOD manages and coordinates the project. Ghent University (under the supervision of Dr Frank Devlieghere, Dr Liesbeth Jaxcsens, and Dr Peter Vlerick) is responsible for the implementation, supported by Fevia and Alimento. 

To that end, the team will be expanding the knowledge recently gained from two Ghent University dissertations; one deals with a new type of process validation, while the other addresses the creation of a food safety culture.

Universiteit Gent
alimento logo
Flanders' FOOD logo


Do you want to follow this project from the front row and help guide the research? You can then join the industrial advisory board if you are a member of Flanders' FOOD, Fevia and/or Wagralim, at least during the duration of the project (from 1/4/2021 to 31/3/2024).

To facilitate implementation, the project consortium also provides an interactive program of activities with different levels of participation.

Does your company want to be a test case (case study) in the research? Let us know. Or just come to the many training courses and study days of the project!


Timothy Lefeber
research manager