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United States of America (U.S.A.)

Key principles

The U.S. food safety system is based on strong, flexible, and science-based federal and state laws and industry's legal responsibility to produce safe foods. The system is guided by the following principles:

  • Only safe and wholesome foods may be marketed;
  • Regulatory decision-making in food safety is science-based;
  • The government has enforcement responsibility;
  • Manufacturers, distributors, importers and others are expected to comply and are liable if they do not
  • The regulatory process is transparent and accessible to the public.

Missions of the main US regulatory organisations

Principal federal regulatory organisations responsible for providing consumer protection are:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA)
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS),
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The FDA is charged with protecting consumers against impure, unsafe, and fraudulently labeled food other than in areas regulated by FSIS. FSIS has the responsibility for ensuring that meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled. EPA's mission includes protecting public health and the environment from risks posed by pesticides and promoting safer means of pest management. No food or feed item may be marketed legally in the U.S. if it contains a food additive or drug residue not permitted by FDA or a pesticide residue without an EPA tolerance or if the residue is in excess of an established tolerance. APHIS' primary role in the U.S. food safety network of agencies is to protect against plant and animal pests and diseases.

Precaution and science-based risk analyses are long-standing and important traditions of U.S. food safety policy and decision-making. U.S. food safety statutes, regulations, and policies are risk-based and have precautionary approaches embedded in them.

US food categories

In general, substances intentionally added to foods are broadly classified as belonging to one of the following categories:

  • Food additives
  • GRAS (generally recognized as safe) ingredients
  • Color additives or
  • Prior-sanctioned substances i.e. are substances that FDA or USDA had determined safe for use in food prior to the 1958 amendment of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).

Organic regulation

The labeling of products as “organic” is regarded strictly as a commercial activity and falls under the jurisdiction of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).