Food Safety & Labeling

Credit: Rusty Clark / CC BY 2.0 

Priority of Food Safety

American consumers deserve to have confidence that their food is safe and that the best science is used to ensure that they have access to the most wholesome products. America’s farmers and ranchers are committed to producing safe and affordable food for consumers in the U.S. and around the world. There are several reasons for their strong support for food safety. They share in the desire to have a safe, abundant and affordable food supply. They also have an economic interest because the demand for their products is determined by consumer confidence. Numerous nationwide food recalls have increased consumer awareness of food safety. At issue is whether the current food safety system has the resources, authority and structural organization to safeguard the health of American consumers against foodborne illness. Also at issue is whether federal food safety laws have kept pace with significant changes in food production, processing and marketing, such as new food sources, advances in production and distribution methods and the growing volume of imports.

Oversight of Food Safety

The Government Accountability Office has identified 15 federal agencies that administer at least 30 laws related to food safety. The Food and Drug Administration, within the Health and Human Services Department, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service, within the Agriculture Department, handle most of the government’s food and safety regulatory system. FDA is responsible for ensuring that all domestic and imported food products – except for most meat and poultry derived from the major animal species – are safe, nutritious, wholesome and accurately labeled. FDA shares responsibility for the safety of eggs with FSIS. FSIS regulates the safety, wholesomeness and proper labeling of most domestic and imported meat and poultry and their products sold for human consumption. FSIS inspects all cattle, sheep, swine, goats and horses before and after they are slaughtered. FSIS also maintains oversight during meat and poultry processing into food products.

Regulatory Status

On Jan. 4, 2011, the President enacted the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (P.L. 111-353). The legislation approved by Congress in 2010 aims to cooperatively improve food safety, building on existing systems already in place in the private sector. It authorizes new resources to increase risk-based inspections, expand research and training programs, and establish a pilot program for high-risk produce traceability.

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