What Is the FDA?

Learn the FDA's responsibilities for food production

Food and Drug Administration
United States Department of Health and Human Services

The FDA, or Food and Drug Administration, is a government agency operating under the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The FDA is primarily responsible for regulating medical products and tobacco, foods and veterinary medicine, and global regulatory operations and policy.

The FDA is responsible for overseeing the activities in these industries throughout the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and other U.S. territories and possessions. According to the FDA, it helps protect public health by, "assuring the safety, effectiveness, quality, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products, medical devices, most of our nation’s food supply, all cosmetics, dietary supplements, and products that give off radiation."

The FDA and Food

The FDA helps keep our food supply safe by overseeing and regulating the food production process and food labeling. This includes not only regular food products, but also bottled water, infant formula, food additives, and dietary supplements. Although wild game and venison are regulated by the FDA, other meat and poultry are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The FDA does not regulate alcohol.

What Does the FDA Do?

The FDA is involved in regulating the following areas of food and food production:

Recalls, Outbreaks, and Emergencies: The FDA helps identify, investigate, and notify citizens of foodborne illness outbreaks. They can issue recalls and help keep food supplies safe during emergency situations where proper sanitation may be at risk.

Foodborne illness and Contaminations: The FDA helps educate citizens and businesses about proper food handling and potential dangers surrounding foodborne illnesses and the health risks posed by chemical and environmental contaminants.

Ingredients, Packaging, and Labeling: The FDA regulates the ingredients, packaging, and labeling of food to help ensure that the products you consume are clearly disclosed and packaged to minimize risk. This includes nutrition data and allergen warnings.

Dietary Supplements: The FDA is in charge of ensuring the safety of dietary supplements, including tips for use, reporting adverse side effects, and ingredient notification.

Food Defense: The FDA helps protect our country's food supply against malicious attacks and tampering that may include poisoning or contamination.

Science and Research: The FDA supports food research and biotechnology. This research helps us understand food safety, consumer health, and food processing techniques.

Guidance and Regulation: The FDA creates documents for guidance and regulation for food production, safety, and retail practices. Guidelines are best practices for areas that do not have set rules, whereas regulations are federally mandated law.

Compliance and Enforcement: The FDA is responsible for evaluating compliance with these regulations and enforcing corrective action in cases of non-compliance. This is achieved through inspections, sampling, recalls, seizure, injunction, and criminal prosecution.

International and Interagency Coordination: Our food supply is now a global entity that involves numerous governmental agencies. The FDA helps coordinate these agencies, both national and international, to ensure safe food supply.

Popular Topics: The FDA stays up to date on popular consumer topics regarding food and provides reliable unbiased information. Popular topics include issues such as BPA, GMOs, trans fats, and energy drinks.

Consumer Resources: The FDA works to educate consumers and provide a reliable source of information and educational material. From food safety to nutrition and popular topics, the FDA provides consumer-level resources that can be used at home, in schools, or even in the workplace.