The present study tested the combination of an established and a validated food-choice research method (the ‘fake food buffet’) with a new food-matching technology to automate the data collection and analysis.
The methodology combines fake-food image recognition using deep learning and food matching and standardization based on natural language processing. The former is specific because it uses a single deep learning network to perform both the segmentation and the classification at the pixel level of the image. To assess its performance, measures based on the standard pixel accuracy and Intersection over Union were applied. Food matching firstly describes each of the recognized food items in the image and then matches the food items with their compositional data, considering both their food names and their descriptors.
The final accuracy of the deep learning model trained on fake-food images acquired by 124 study participants and providing fifty-five food classes was 92·18 %, while the food matching was performed with a classification accuracy of 93 %.
The present findings are a step towards automating dietary assessment and food-choice research. The methodology outperforms other approaches in pixel accuracy, and since it is the first automatic solution for recognizing the images of fake foods, the results could be used as a baseline for possible future studies. As the approach enables a semi-automatic description of recognized food items (e.g. with respect to FoodEx2), these can be linked to any food composition database that applies the same classification and description system.