Food Laws And Regulations

In the United States, a number of food laws have been passed with the primary objective to prevent food adulteration, either economic or hazardous. Some of the more prominent laws are the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the FDCA (including the Delaney clause, which prohibited the use of any known human or animal carcinogen in foods), the 1966 Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, and the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. Food regulations promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the purpose of enforcing these laws are found in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, while regulations promulgated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (for meat, poultry, eggs, and their products) are in Title 9. In addition to these national regulations, food processors dealing in international commerce may have to follow international regulations, such as those defined by the Codex Alimentarius.

Currently, regulations exist pertinent to current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs), nutritive requirements, food standards of identity, labeling, use of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans, and others. The most recent and important regulations are the mandating of HACCP by the FDA in 1995 for domestic and imported fish and fishery products and in 1996 by the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA (FSIS-USDA) covering domestic and imported meat and poultry products. HACCP is a systematic approach to identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards. The systematic approach is based on the following seven points:

1. Conduct a hazard analysis.

2. Determine the critical control points.

3. Establish critical limits.

4. Establish monitoring procedures.

5. Establish corrective actions.

6. Establish verification procedures.

7. Establish record keeping and documentation procedures.

The regulations require as a prerequisite to the HACCP systems of an individual food processor the establishment of sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOPs), which are written procedures determining how a food processor will meet sanitary conditions and practices in a food plant. SSOPs are based on the CGMP regulations.

Grades and Grading

The USDA also provides grading services for fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, dairy products, and grains. Services may be obtained on a contractual basis for inclusive grading or for grading of selected lots of product. Grades are not mandatory as are identity standards. Grades provide a rational basis for the evaluation of the worth of processed foods for trading, financial, or contractual purposes where the buyer or seller cannot sample or inspect the products themselves. All grades and grading procedures, fees, labeling and identification procedures, and sampling plans (including those for canned, frozen, and dried fruits and vegetables) are specified. Because changes in regulations take place frequently, the regional or the Washington, D.C., office of the FDA or the USDA should be consulted for the latest regulations.

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