The Food Quality Assurance Program consists of four sections that conduct a variety of inspections, audits, registrations and certifications of agricultural commodities and facilities to provide consumers with safe, high quality agricultural food products while maintaining fair trade practices and enhancing product marketability for the agricultural industry. All activities of this Program are funded through fees charged to producers, processors and wholesalers.
The Grading Services Section inspects and certifies the quality, weight, production practices, processing practices and/or labeling of agricultural commodities such as eggs, poultry, meat, grain, fruits and vegetables. Both U.S. Department of Agriculture standards and State of Maryland standards are used depending on the type of certification. MDA graders are licensed by U.S.D.A. to ensure the standards are uniformly interpreted nationally. Official certification is often required by buyers for grocery stores, food service facilities and other countries. This Section also conducts audits of producers and processors to verify compliance with Good Agricultural Practices, Animal Welfare guidelines, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points systems, sanitation standards and food security guidelines.
The Egg Inspection Section enforces the requirements of the Maryland Egg Law to ensure consumers are purchasing accurately labeled, fresh, high quality and wholesome eggs. MDA inspectors randomly visit grocery stores, restaurants, warehouses and other businesses handling eggs to enforce the requirements of the law. This Section also administers the voluntary Maryland Egg Quality Assurance Program designed to reduce the risk of Salmonella enteritidis contamination of eggs.
The Grain Dealers Law Section administers the enforcement of the Grain Dealers Licensing Law. All persons purchasing grain from a producer are required to obtain a license annually. To obtain a license, they must submit documentation of a minimum financial net worth and insurance coverage for grain.
The Organic Certification Section conducts inspections and reviews organic production and handling operations as an U.S.D.A. accredited certifier. Operations meeting the National Organic Program's standards are issued a certificate by MDA.