Food quality or Meal quality is the quality characteristics of food that is acceptable to consumers. 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. Members of the public complain to trading standards professionals,[specify] who submit complaint samples and also samples used to routinely monitor the food marketplace to public analysts. Public analysts carry out scientific analysis on the samples to determine whether the quality is of sufficient standard.
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).
Besides ingredient quality, there are also sanitation requirements. 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.
Food quality also deals with product traceability, (e.g., of ingredient, and packaging suppliers), should a recall of the product be required. It also deals with labeling issues to ensure there is correct ingredient and nutritional information.
There are many existing international quality institutes testing food products in order to indicate to all consumers which are higher quality products. Founded in 1961 in Brussels, The international Monde Selection quality award is the oldest in evaluating food quality. During the degustations, the products must meet the following selection criteria, required by the Institute: sensory analysis, bacteriological and chemical analysis, the nutrition and health claims, and the utilisation notice. In short, the judgements are based on the following areas: taste, health, convenience, labelling, packaging, environmental friendliness and innovation. As many consumers rely on manufacturing and processing standards, the Institute Monde Selection takes into account the European Food Law.