Food Quality

What is food quality?

The term "quality" is "The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs" – ISO Definition.

Food quality is therefore, the extent to which all the established requirements relating to the characteristics of a food are met.

This means that food is of good quality if it meets the specifications set out by various actors in the food chain:


Manufacturer’s specifications

As a manufacture, there are specific quality attributes that they may want in their product to make it stand out

Food Industry stipulations

The industry may be structured and organized in a particular way such that it can set out limits or standards for any participant in a particular value chain. For instance, an organized group may establish limits for certain constituents in certain foods where legal standards are not involved.

Consumer requirements

Besides what the law stipulates or the manufacture desires, there is what the consumer is willing to buy. It is the most important aspect of defining food quality. The consumer may dictate the characteristics of food products they would buy.

Legal requirements

These are mandatory requirements by governments or legal entities which are set up by law.

There are two types of quality:

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  • Design – The making of the product, the feel, the look, touch. This is the engineer's decision and is influenced by all the stakeholders and value chain actors including the consumers.
  • Conformance – the extent to which you can meet the stipulated guidelines

How to achieve food quality

Achieving quality is a process! Processes are made up of steps. Each step on its own is useless as far as the achievement of quality is concerns. However, all steps brought together becomes a powerful too in the achievement of quality.

Quality is a responsibility of all people on the food chain, not just the manufacture. Even the consumer has a role to play in ensuring they get the best quality. Industry segment has a role to play in dictating quality. The government through the legal segments has a major role to play. Learn more about the roles played by key stakeholders along the food value chains.

Therefore, a process approach has to be followed in order to achieve quality. For instance, if the raw materials obtained for processing are contaminated with heavy metals, or if the fruits obtained for making juices or sauces are rotten, there is no chance that even if the other steps are followed accurately that the final product will be of good quality. Thus, quality is achieved if and only if all the steps are followed correctly as stipulated.

Importance of food quality

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Food quality is important for a number of reasons. Good quality food means safe food which translates to:
  • Reduction in disease outbreaks - Healthy life for all

  • Reduced healthy budgets – Improved living standards

  • Healthy workforce means continued productivity

Quality vs safety

Included in the established requirements are requirements related to the safety of the food. For instance, there are stipulations on the maximum levels of aflatoxins that can be tolerated in food products.

Food safety is the extent to which those requirements relating specifically to characteristics or properties that have the potential to be harmful to health or to cause illness or injury are met. Some food quality characteristics (e.g., counts of total bacteria, coliform bacteria) can be used as indicators of food safety, although they are not considered specifically as food safety characteristics.

Therefore, this means that food quality includes food safety and that, you cannot claim food safety without food quality and vice versa. This is to say that food which is safe and may not harm may be of poor quality! And food that appears to be of high quality may be harmful to you!

A food that does not conform to the food safety requirements automatically does not conform to the food quality requirements. On the other hand, a food can conform to the food safety requirements, but not conform to the other quality requirements.

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Who is responsible for quality?

Quality is a responsibility of all people on the food chain, not just the manufacture. Even the consumer has a role to play in ensuring they get the best quality and safe food. The industry at large also has a role in dictating the quality of products

The government through the legal segments has a major role to play. The overall responsibility for food quality is shared by all segments of the food system, including the various food industry sectors, government regulatory agencies, and consumers in general.

Figure 2. Key determinants of food quality and safety
Learn more about the roles played by key stakeholders along the food value chains!