Several chemical disinfection strategies may be used to control cross-contamination of pathogens during fresh-cut produce washing. Deciding which strategy to select not only requires the use of technical information on the relevant criteria but can also make use of stakeholder perception. This study aimed to describe the application of a Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) to support decision-makers when determining a control strategy that best meets the views of various stakeholders and their possible conflicting interests. In this case study, five control strategies that can be used to treat the wash water, which comes in direct contact with the produce in the wash tank during processing, were examined. These strategies aimed to control pathogenic cross-contamination during fresh-cut lettuce washing at processors. These strategies included the use of free chlorine, chlorine dioxide, ozone, peracetic acid, or no wash water disinfectant. The performance analysis was based on five main criteria: Effectiveness, Technological aspects, Consumer acceptance, Economics, and Health. Scores for these criteria were evaluated using scientific literature, while the weights of the criteria were assessed using stakeholders. Results for the five control strategies were determined per stakeholder group, which included fresh-cut processors, producers and suppliers of disinfectants and equipment, scientists, and government representatives, as well as per individual. Stakeholders were shown to have different views on the relative importance of the criteria; however, the criterion “Health” was consistently considered most important. The ranking of the control strategies was similar for each stakeholder group and over stakeholders. Overall, the results showed that peracetic acid is the preferred control strategy. Based on the results of these analyses, the MCDA approach may assist in the complex decision to select a control strategy to control potential cross-contamination directly in the wash tank during fresh-cut lettuce washing by considering the different nature of the criteria and the perceptions of various stakeholder groups.
- Food safety