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Understanding Food Regulation: USDA vs. FDA

In the United States, there are two key agencies that are involved in the regulatory oversite of food manufacturing: the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). While both make sure that food is produced safely, they each have their distinct areas of jurisdiction. Let's explore the responsibilities of each agency and gain a better understanding of their roles in safeguarding our food.

USDA: Meat, Poultry, and Eggs

The USDA uses its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which focuses on the safety and quality of meat, poultry, and processed egg products. Their responsibilities include facility inspections, accurate product labeling, and animal health and welfare standards.

The USDA inspection as centered around safe production and assessing a high level of animal health and welfare. The documentation looks different for this type of inspection than others because you need to work directly with the main source of the product, the farms. Whether it is a cattle ranch to a brood of hens, the USDA wants to know that the animals are treated with respect. The documentation for this can look like a Global GAP audit or a safe animal handling policy.

FDA: Everything else

The FDA has a wider jurisdiction, covering all other products not regulated by the USDA. This includes fruits, vegetables, seafood, dairy products, and most processed foods. They ensure the safety of these products by regular food safety inspection, regulating food additives and ingredients, and accurate food labeling of the products it covers as well.

At a regular food safety inspection you can expect the auditor to review your facility’s supplier approval program. On top of the regular documents required to show full traceability, you will need to show additional documentation for your Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP). All this means is that you have additional documentation that the ingredients that are being sourced from a different country and produced at the same standard as in the United States.

While the USDA primarily oversees meat, poultry, and eggs, and the FDA regulates most other food products, there is some overlap and collaboration between the agencies. They work together to develop further food safety regulations, conduct research on food safety issues, and improve the guidelines for best practices.

The USDA and FDA both play critical roles in upholding the safety and quality of the food we consume. They each cover different jurisdictions when it comes to our supply chain and both require levels of documentation to validate your food safety procedures. Together, they work diligently to protect consumers by conducting inspections, regulating labeling, and enforcing food safety standards. Both of these government agencies make sure that the food we eat is properly produced, manufactured, and sold to us as consumers.

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