The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments. The FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, and dietary supplements.
FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.
FDA is also responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines more effective, safer, and more affordable and by helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to maintain and improve their health. FDA also has responsibility for regulating the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco products to protect the public health and to reduce tobacco use by
Finally, FDA plays a significant role in the Nation’s counterterrorism capability. FDA fulfills this responsibility by ensuring the security of the food supply and by fostering development of medical products to respond to deliberate and naturally emerging public health threats.
The U.S. enjoys one of the world’s safest food supplies. FDA has systems in place to help assure that our food supply is wholesome, safe to eat, and produced under sanitary conditions.
FDA has a team of more than 900 investigators and 450 analysts in the Foods program who conduct inspections and collect and analyze product samples. FDA oversees the importation of the full range of regulated products, including food and animal feed, among other responsibilities.
If unsafe products reach our ports, FDA’s imports entry reviews, inspections, and sampling at the border help prevent these products from entering our food supply. FDA also works cooperatively with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other agencies to help identify shipments that may pose a threat. If radiation levels in any food reach the FDA intervention level, FDA will take action to remove the food from distribution.
Responsibility for enforcing the Pure Food and Drugs Act fell to the Bureau of Chemistry, a division within the USDA, which conducted some of the earliest studies of food adulteration within the United States. The Bureau of Chemistry was renamed the Food, Drug, and Insecticide Administration in 1927. In 1931 the name was shortened to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 1940 the FDA was transferred from the USDA to the Federal Security Agency, which, in 1953, was renamed the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 and various bills since have strengthened government control by requiring prior-evidence-of-safety tests and procedures for new drugs, pesticides, and additives and colorings in foods and cosmetics. The FDA was first established in 1931; in 1940 it was transferred from the Dept. of Agriculture to the Federal Security Agency and in 1953 to the Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare, which was redesignated as Health and Human Services in 1979.
In 1937, a drug company in Tennessee manufactured Elixir Sulfanilamide, sulfanilamide mixed with diethylene glycol, and although the company tested the product for flavor, appearance, and fragrance, the food and drug laws at the time did not require toxicologic analysis. As a result, more than 107 people died from ingestion of the adulterated elixir,2 and Congress passed the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act the following year.
Although the FDA was not known by its current name until 1930, its modern regulatory functions began with the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act, a law, more than a quarter of a century in the making, that prohibited interstate commerce in adulterated and misbranded food and drugs.
Food and Drug Act of 1906: As the new century began, widely publicized reports began to highlight severe problems in our country’s food and drug industry. One of the most dramatic of these reports was Upton Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, which graphically illustrated problems in the nation’s meat processing industry.
In 1902, one advertisement for a medical product claimed, “No other preparation has had its therapeutic value more thoroughly defined or better established . . . [as] a remedy in the treatment of coughs, bronchitis . . . asthma, laryngitis, pneumonia, and whooping cough.”1 This wonder drug was heroin — a drug that made people feel better but had an addictive potential that made its medicinal use dangerous and inappropriate.
You may not realize the number of products you use in a given day that are regulated by the FDA. The label on the juice you drink for breakfast, the cosmetics you apply before work, the array of dietary supplements you take before dashing out the door, the food you feed your pets, the aspirin you take after a long day, and the contact lenses you place on your eyes are all regulated by this Rockville, Maryland-based agency. Because of the FDA, Americans largely can take for granted that these products are safe.