The Grading Services Section provides grading and official certification of the quality, size, weight, and/or the production or processing practices of agricultural commodities. Grading is the evaluation of an agricultural commodity for compliance with official standards. Certification is the official documentation of the grading evaluation and the identification of the graded commodity with an official grademark or seal. MDA inspectors representatively sample eggs, poultry, meat, fruit, vegetables and grain for producers and processors. Product that meets the required standards is labeled with an official grademark or seal. The section also conducts audits to determine a producer or processor=s compliance with standards for animal husbandry, food security, HACCP, processing plant sanitation, good agricultural practices and good handling practices.
The Grading Services Section uses both U.S. Department of Agriculture and State of Maryland grading standards depending on the type of certification requested by the producer or processor. Maryland Department of Agriculture inspectors are licensed by USDA to perform poultry, egg, meat, fruit and vegetable certification and have received USDA training in the USDA standards for grain. MDA employees conducting audits have successfully completed ISO 9000 Lead Auditor training. Any product certified to USDA standards is identified with the USDA shield. The standards used are the same as those used by USDA graders throughout the United States providing for a common language concerning product quality nationwide. Product certified to state standards is identified by the State of Maryland seal.
Consumers purchasing officially graded agricultural commodities can be assured the product meets the standards indicated on the label. Anyone with questions about standards or who wishes to request service should contact the Maryland Department of Agriculture at (410) 841-5769 (Annapolis) or (410) 543 6630 (Salisbury).
The services provided by this section are funded entirely by fees charged to the processors or producers using the service.