FoodFindsAsia | What is Food Quality? | When it comes to food, some of us eat to live and others live to eat, but regardless of your attitude to food, it all has to adhere to a certain quality. Quality management systems, such as ISO 9001:2015, are essential when it comes to food. With this being said, what does food quality actually mean? The attributes associated with food quality include ethical and sustainable production, nutritional content, flavour, texture, and appearance.
As well as the quality of the food, these standards may also apply to food safety laws, which are incredibly important to determine whether food is safe for consumption. Typically speaking, food quality is synonymous with acceptability; however, this definition can vary from person to person in different cultures and regions. Consequently, food quality is subjective to some degree.
Therefore, in order to avoid grey areas, the food industry will often use product specifications to define the criteria. Consequently, these products must conform to the specifications that determine quality.
Quality Management Systems
Quality management systems are formalized practices that determine product control, resources, procedures, processes, responsibilities, and business structures. This is a proactive approach that recognizes problems before they present themselves, which is achieved via continual processes of fault correction, auditing, and assessment. This helps ensure that contracted product characteristics are met and that the efficiency and effectiveness of production are achieved.
Three important tools are widely applied in relation to the conformance of product specifications. These are Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP).
GAP refers to basic food safety rules that are designed to reduce physical, chemical, and biological hazards. Aspects that fall under this umbrella include transportation, cooling, facility sanitation, worker hygiene, animal feeding practices, integrated crop management (ICM), genetically modified organisms (GMO), pesticides, fertilizers, water, wildlife protection, land use, and site selection.
GMP deals with all individuals that are working directly with the food and anything that might come into contact with such. This is to protect the food from contamination in both a direct and indirect capacity. Typically, GMP’s are regarded as the minimum hygiene requirements that must be met in order to ensure that food is safe and of consistent quality. Therefore, waste management, transport, distribution, storage, pest control, sanitation, training, personal hygiene, provision of facilities, maintenance of equipment, and food premises design all fall under this umbrella.
HACCP is a preventative risk management tool that’s acknowledged on a global scale, which allows for the identification of critical control points. These include allergenic, physical, chemical, and microbiological contaminants. Ultimately, HACCP works to analyze risks and implement measures to prevent these risks from becoming a concern.
Food Quality Standards
The World Trade Organization (WTO) determines the meaning of the term standard, which provides companies with a guide as to what quality their food should reach. These standards encourage companies to assess their review processes, reporting systems, analytical and sampling schedules, critical control points, standard operating procedures, quality manuals, traceability, ingredient specifications, and employee training. Not only are these measures essential to the quality of the food, but they also ensure that the company is able to run efficiently.
In order to assess a food company’s compliance with policies and regulations, an audit must be completed. Within this audit, checks will be conducted, and documents will be reviewed. The extent to which the audit is conducted will be determined via the party that it falls under. For instance, there are first party, second party, and third party audits that all describe different levels at which the audit is being carried out.