Food quality is a multi-faceted concept. It is the quality characteristics of food that is acceptable to consumers. The definition of food quality is furthermore a very subjective matter, differing from person to person. This includes external factors as appearance (size, shape, color, gloss, and consistency), texture, and flavor; factors such as federal grade standards (e.g. of eggs) and internal (chemical, physical, microbial).
Food quality in the United States is enforced by the Food Safety Act 1990. Food quality and safety are the main targets of investigation in food production. Public analysts carry out scientific analysis on the samples to determine whether the quality is of sufficient standard. Therefore, reliable paths to detect, identify, quantify, characterize, and monitor quality and safety issues occurring in food are of great interest.
Food quality is an important food manufacturing requirement because food consumers are susceptible to any form of contamination that may occur during the manufacturing process. Many consumers also rely on manufacturing and processing standards, particularly to know what ingredients are present, due to dietary, nutritional requirements (kosher, halal, vegetarian), or medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, or allergies). It promotes food and health equity which will consequently promote public health and combat diseases.
Fig: Food Quality Standard
Quality should make a product what it is; conforming to requirements or specifications. In this context, quality may be defined in different ways depending on the interest of the manufacturers, or how they want to impress it upon their customers. Besides ingredient quality, there are also sanitation requirements. Quality is often used as a qualifier in describing some products or services, for example, high-quality products, high-quality education, high-quality art, high-quality health care, and so on. It is important to ensure that the food processing environment is as clean as possible in order to produce the safest possible food for the consumer. A recent example of poor sanitation recently has been the 2006 North American E. coli outbreak involving spinach, an outbreak that is still under investigation. Consumer concerns related to food safety scandals and the globalization of food production have resulted in a global and interconnected system for the production and distribution of food.
Food quality represents the sum of all properties and assessable attributes of a food item. It also deals with product traceability, should recall the product be required. It also deals with labeling issues to ensure there are a correct ingredient and nutritional information.