Quality control of food products

Quality control of food products is important to ensure their safety, compliance with standards and consumer satisfaction. This essential step involves all the participants in the agri-food chain, from production to distribution, including the processing and packaging stages. Our aim is to shed light on food quality control, an issue that directly affects every consumer.

What is quality control for food products ?

Food industry quality control is there to ensure safety, compliance with standards and consumer satisfaction. It plays a central role at all stages of the agri-food chain, from production to distribution, including product processing and packaging.

This process involves the rigorous application of standards, procedures and scientific analysis methods to assess the physical, chemical, microbiological and sensory aspects of food. Traceability and labelling are also closely examined to prevent risks, fraud, non-compliance and defects that could compromise food quality and safety.

Implementing product quality control requires the commitment of multiple stakeholders, each with specific responsibilities. Food industry producers and distributors are on the front line in guaranteeing the quality and safety of the products they offer. They must adhere to hygiene, production and distribution standards, while complying with the legislation in place.

The competent authorities ensure compliance with these standards through regular inspections, audits, sampling and analysis of products. They also play an essential role in monitoring food-related diseases, managing health alerts and collaborating with other national and international authorities.

Independent bodies, such as analysis laboratories, certifiers and consumer protection associations, may also be involved in the process. Their role is to provide an additional layer of control or advice to boost confidence in food quality control systems.

Why is it important to monitor the quality of food products?

Monitoring the quality of food products is vitally important for a number of reasons. Firstly, in terms of public health, the consumption of contaminated food represents a serious risk.

Every year, food-borne diseases affect around 600 million people worldwide, with severe consequences, including death, particularly among vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.Vigilance over food quality helps to prevent these diseases, thereby protecting the health and well-being of consumers.

Food quality also has a significant influence on economic development. The losses caused by the consumption of poor-quality food can be substantial, both for those involved in the food industry, in terms of reduced production and income, erosion of reputation and confidence, and the risk of sanctions, and for consumers, in terms of reduced productivity and quality of life.

Guaranteeing food quality therefore helps to reduce these economic losses and supports market access, ensuring fair trade and compliance with customer standards and expectations.

Food safety is closely linked to the quality of food products. Poor quality food can undermine the availability, accessibility, correct use and stability of food resources, thereby compromising the four pillars of food safety.

This includes contamination, spoilage, adulteration and consumption of unsuitable foods, reducing the quantity and quality of available food resources, as well as limiting consumers' ability to access and use these resources safely and appropriately, affecting their nutritional security. Rigorous quality control of food therefore enhances food safety and supports sustainable development goals, in particular MDGs 2 and 3.

Who is food quality control aimed at ?

Quality control of food products involves all the players in the agri-food chain. Each, with their specific roles and responsibilities, contributes to ensuring the safety, regulatory compliance and consumer satisfaction of food products.

Operators in the food sector bear primary responsibility for the quality and safety of products offered on the market. They must strictly follow good practice in hygiene, production and distribution, while complying with legal and regulatory standards. In addition, they must establish effective internal controls, based on hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), to prevent, reduce or eliminate the risks associated with their goods.

The competent authorities ensure that operators comply with the regulations through inspections, audits, sampling and analyses. They are also responsible for monitoring food-borne diseases, managing health alerts and crises, and coordinating with other national and international bodies.

In France, the main agents of this surveillance are the Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF), the Directorate-General for Food (DGAL) and the inter-ministerial departmental directorates in charge of population protection (DDPP or DDCSPP).

Independent bodies, such as analysis labs, certification bodies or consumer associations, also play a role in maintaining food quality by providing additional assurances or making recommendations. To validate their technical expertise and impartiality, they must be accredited by the French Accreditation Committee (COFRAC) or other recognised bodies.

What organisations offer quality control of food products ?

Various bodies offer quality control of food products, tailored to the needs and goals of food entrepreneurs. These bodies fall into three main categories : official bodies, private bodies and certification bodies.

Official bodies

Official bodies represent the competent authorities responsible for the official control of food products, in accordance with regulations. Their essential role is to ensure the safety, regulatory compliance and integrity of commercial practices relating to food products.

These bodies carry out inspections, audits, sampling and analyses. They also take corrective action or impose penalties in the event of non-compliance or a detected hazard. In France, the most notable include the DGCCRF, the DGAL and departmental services such as the DDPP or DDCSPP.

At European level, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) plays a key role in providing scientific advice on the risks associated with the food chain.

Private organisations

Independent, private bodies offer quality control services for food products at the request of food industry professionals or consumers. They can carry out various types of analyses, tests, audits or provide advice, depending on their clients' requirements. Their reports, certificates or recommendations serve as proof or guarantee of product quality.

These private bodies include analysis laboratories, which carry out various analyses on food products, and consumer associations, which carry out comparative tests or surveys.

Certification bodies

Certification bodies issue certificates of conformity to voluntary standards or specifications concerning the quality of food products. These certifications prove that products comply with high or specific quality criteria covering various aspects such as safety, organoleptic quality, nutrition, origin, production methods, respect for the environment and animal welfare.

Approved certification bodies offering certification for official quality signs such as PDO, PGI, Label Rouge or organic farming, and recognised certification bodies for private standards such as FSSC 22000, IFS, BRC or SQF, are included in this category.

What are the different stages in the quality control of food products ?

The quality control process for food products breaks down into several key stages, from the examination of raw materials to the distribution of the finished product. This process includes verifying the quality of ingredients, compliance with hygiene and food safety standards, and adherence to current regulations. These key stages are organised into three essential phases : prevention, detection and correction.


The prevention phase focuses on the adoption of measures designed to minimise or eliminate the risks of contamination, alteration or counterfeiting of products. It is based on strict compliance with good hygiene, production and distribution practices, ensuring the cleanliness of facilities, equipment, personnel and the products themselves.

It also involves the application of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) principles, aimed at identifying, controlling and monitoring critical points likely to present hazards. Prevention requires the commitment of all players in the agri-food chain, who must comply with the legal regulations, specifications and voluntary standards in force.


The detection phase enables checks to be carried out to ensure the conformity and safety of food products. It is based on physical, chemical, microbiological or sensory analyses, designed to assess product characteristics, traceability and labelling. It also includes carrying out inspections or audits to assess compliance with good practice and regulatory obligations by operators in the sector.

Detection involves the competent authorities, responsible for official controls on food products, as well as independent bodies that can offer additional guarantees or expert opinions.


The correction phase occurs when it is necessary to rectify the non-conformities or hazards identified during the checks. It is based on the implementation of corrective measures, aimed at eliminating or reducing the causes of the problems identified and preventing their recurrence. It also includes the application of repressive measures, in the event of breaches or infringements, with the aim of protecting consumers.

Operators in the food sector play a crucial role in this phase, having to shoulder their responsibilities, as do the competent authorities who manage health alerts and crises.

How much does food quality control cost ?

The cost of quality control of food products varies according to a multitude of criteria, including the type of product, the nature of the control, the body carrying out the control, the frequency with which these controls are carried out, their complexity, the number of samples to be tested, the volume of analyses required and the time taken to obtain the results. It is therefore difficult to set a standard price for these tests, although price ranges can be given for guidance.

The costs associated with official food controls are generally covered by the competent authorities through public budgets allocated to their public service remit. However, food businesses may be required to pay fees or fines if non-compliances or infringements are detected during these controls.

Investment in internal quality control is the responsibility of food companies, which must allocate the human, material and financial resources needed to develop and maintain an effective quality management system, based on the principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point). The associated costs can range from a few hundred to several thousand euros a year, depending on the size of the company, its sector of activity, the number of products manufactured and the number of critical points to be monitored.

As far as external quality control is concerned, the costs are borne by the food operators who call on independent entities or certification bodies to carry out specific analyses, tests, audits or to obtain advice. Depending on the nature of the analysis, the body chosen and the type of certification required, costs can vary from a few dozen to several hundred euros per sample.

How long does it take to obtain quality control for food products ?

The time required to carry out a quality control for food products varies according to a multitude of factors, including the type of product being inspected, the nature of the inspection, the organisation in charge, the resources available, the complexity of the audit, and the volume of samples and analyses to be carried out. Because of this diversity, there is no standard duration for these controls, but general estimates can be made based on various recommendations.

For official controls, dictated by the regulatory authorities, the frequency and rigour of inspections are set by the standards in force. These assessments can range from a few days to several months, depending on criteria such as the type and frequency of analyses ordered. For example, the Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) carries out inspections which, depending on the national or regional plan, can vary from a few weeks to several months.

The timeframe for internal controls depends entirely on food operators, who are required to establish a robust internal quality control system aligned with the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). These timescales can range from a few hours to a few days, depending on the nature of the control and the product. A common example would be an operator carrying out daily or weekly assessments, the duration of which may vary from minutes to hours, depending on established internal protocols.

External controls are the result of an agreement between operators in the food sector and third parties or certification bodies responsible for carrying out analyses, tests, audits or providing specialist advice. They can last from several days to several weeks, depending on the type of product and the type of control or certification required.

For example, obtaining a certificate of conformity to a voluntary standard may involve various audits (initial, follow-up, renewal), each of which can take from a few days to a few weeks.

Is there a need to renew the quality control of food products ?

Renewing the quality control of food products is essential to ensure or improve their quality and safety. This approach takes into account changes in risks, standards, legal requirements and consumer expectations. It can be either voluntary or compulsory, depending on the type of control, the product and the organisation involved.

It requires regular or specific checks, based on the frequency and criteria defined by the regulations in force, the specifications or specific standards.

The official renewal of quality control is compulsory and falls under the authority of the competent authorities. It includes regular or random checks based on national or regional control plans, constantly revised according to annual risk analyses.

This process ensures compliance with legal and regulatory standards, and monitors and manages health alerts and crises.

Renewed internal controls, carried out by food operators, are voluntary and aim to carry out regular or occasional checks based on continually improved internal procedures. This control ensures risk management, traceability and correct labelling of products.

Renewal of the external inspection, which may be voluntary or compulsory, depends on the type of product, the organisation and the certificate. It includes annual or multi-year inspections based on evolving standards or specifications. The aim is to obtain or renew a certificate of conformity, a guarantee of superior or specific quality.