When you think of what really makes fruit and vegetables stand out it usually comes down to quality. Determining quality – making sure your fresh food looks, smells, feels and tastes just the way you expect it to – is what USDA’s Quality Monitoring Program (QMP) does.
The program, run by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Specialty Crops Inspection Division, allows produce suppliers and others to have products inspected by USDA based on specific internal standards or U.S. grade standards. As a neutral third-party, USDA evaluates various commodities through QMP – everything from olive oil to canned, frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Businesses sign up voluntarily at one of two levels: verification and certification. With verification, QMP confirms that the company’s quality requirements have been met. At the certification level, the process is taken a step further and includes unannounced site visits, production process reviews and USDA grading measures. Companies successfully completing the rigorous QMP process at the certification level can use the official Quality Monitored Seal on their food and marketing materials.
Recently, Sbrocco International received approval to apply the USDA QMP seal on packaging of red and green grapes shipped from Chile. The Specialty Crops Inspection Division will confirm the certification after evaluating the company’s product to ensure that U.S. grade standards and quality measures are met. As part of the agreement to continue to use the QMP seal, USDA will monitor the company through unannounced visits and regular assessment of the company’s packing facilities. Once Sbrocco’s product is confirmed, the company will join Pompeian, Inc., as one of the only companies to earn the quality monitored seal on their products.
Earlier this year, other companies, like DNE California out of Los Angeles and Proffer Wholesale Produce in Missouri, also participated in QMP for fresh products through the verification process. AMS provided cost-efficient quality assurance verification to both companies for their 2013 growing seasons.
More and more consumers want to make sure that they get quality fresh produce at a value. By working with USDA to earn and use the QMP seal on fresh produce, produce companies are finding new ways to help their customers make informed decisions.
As an objective third-party, AMS will use the same measures and quality verification processes for any company that would like to participate in QMP. Find out more by visiting the Quality Monitoring Program website.