The "quality issue" in the agri-food sector has been gaining importance over the past few years. Firms are continually searching for techniques and tools which permit production of goods that meet as many as possible of the characteristics demanded by the market. Quality assurance methods and techniques can provide a useful tool for approaching evolving markets in the correct way. This paper focuses on a survey conducted in certain sub-sectors (fruit and vegetable, meal and pasta, wine) and is specifically restricted to the Emilia-Romagna region. The survey found that there is extensive awareness of and widespread interest in quality systems. However, the objective of initiating a pattern of renewal which incorporates quality systems has not yet been widely attained. The survey also highlighted a certain absence of the "quality culture" necessary for correctly addressing these issues. The second part of this paper focuses on the economic analysis of the costs related to quality systems (QS). Its aim is to apply a method for collecting data on activities and resources, and to analyse the results. The importance of QS-related costs is evident if we are to consider it an investment, entailing the deployment of management effort and funds, and yielding a set of benefits in return. Case study analyses were conducted utilising an original classification scheme. From the initial results it is possible to identify the principal cost categories. The method adopted could be useful for firms wishing to monitor their QS.