USDA: The umbrella department of consumer safety
The U.S. Department of Agriculture – USDA is often confused with the Food and Drug Administration –FDA, due to some similar regulations such as product’s traceability and safety. However, there are some major differences to be highlighted between the two.
The USDA covers several services notably:
- Support farmers with price support subsidies,
- Organize food inspection for public safety,
- Seek to expand overseas markets for U.S. agricultural products,
- Provide financing for jobs, housing, and utilities of rural America.
History of the USDA
In 1862, Abraham Lincoln – a farmer child, pushed for innovation of agriculture, homesteading and land grants for agricultural and engineering colleges. A beginning for agricultural safety in America. In 1884, the Bureau of Animal Industry, the predecessor to the food safety and inspection service, was created to prevent diseased animals to be used in food for consumers. However, as the industrial revolution rose and so did the population and the risks of food contamination and disease.
In 1905 Upton Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle” revolutionized food regulation as it gave unprecedented insight into the food manufacturing business that has arisen. It paved the way for the Food and Drug Act as well as the Meat Inspection Act in 1906.
Afterwards, the regulations started growing and creating a safer food system for its consumers. In the 1920s, eggs began being inspected which led to the Poultry Products Inspection Act in 1957.
The Food Additive Amendment in the 50’ and 60’created a shift to focus on mislabeled and adulterated products from chemical additives instead of only contaminated meat. The more complex processing methods made in larger volumes created a new contamination concern for pesticides, the residue of drugs given to animals, and preservatives. An important change from how meats only needed visual proof of contamination.
One of the larger services under the USDA in 1972 was the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service which handled all regulatory responsibilities. In 1977 it has become the Food Safety and Quality Service that finally changed to what it is today the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in 1981.
The USDA Inspection Services
The USDA is an umbrella department of the government composed of several other services that accomplish all that the USDA does such as regulate meat poultry and egg products as well as provide aid to farmers and rural communities in the United States.
- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – APHIS, regulates genetically engineered organisms and eradicates pests and diseases.
- Food Safety and Inspection Service – FSIS rations the commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products to make sure they are safe, labeled properly and to minimize contamination. It uses scientifically based microbiological approaches to detect research and prevent foodborne hazards such as Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria.
The USDA and the FDA
The USDA regulates the raw materials that the FDA then regulates when they are processed into other products or prepared foods that have been packaged and labeled. They regulate and maintain the safety of various aspects of the food supply chain for consumers.
Just like FDA, The USDA imposes several regulations on food that is both imported and exported to the United States as raw materials. These regulations make sure that the food is high quality, not mislabeled or misleading and safe for consumers.
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