Food safety organizations are paramount to ensuring a well-maintained food supply that is free from illness-promoting agents and other adverse components. The major food health organizations in the United States are the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The FDA is responsible for about 70 percent of nation’s food supply, while the USDA’s roles encompass most of the remaining 30 percent.
However, there are other smaller food safety organizations, including sub-agencies within the FDA and USDA, which play a role in protecting the food supply of the United States. Such organizations include the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), the International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI), the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN)
CFSAN is one of six product-oriented centers of the FDA and is responsible for the safety of the nation’s food supply, food supplements, and cosmetics. CFSAN, according to the FDA’s website, “is responsible for promoting and protecting the public’s health by ensuring that the nation’s food supply is safe, sanitary, wholesome, and honestly labeled, and that cosmetic products are safe and properly labeled.”
From a holistic perspective, CFSAN is responsible for ensuring that no food, cosmetics or supplements are “harmful” to consumers. CFSAN regulates approximately $530 billion worth of products in its assigned categories.
CFSAN has a wide scope of responsibilities, including: regulations, activities, programs, and research involving dietary supplements, food labeling, and foodborne illness (chemical and biological). CFSAN also regulates food and color additives and other substances. Additionally, the agency is responsible for ensuring the compliance of the food industry through surveillance; customer education and industry outreach; cooperation with local, tribal and state governments; and establishment of international food standards.
As mentioned, CFSAN also regulates cosmetic products and maintains a wide scope of regulatory authority in this arena. Specifically, CFSAN is responsible for regulations and policy governing the safety, labeling, and potential health risks of cosmetics. As it does for food, CFSAN also conducts post-market surveillance, industry outreach, customer education and various international operations for cosmetics.
International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI)
The International Food Protection Training Institute’s operative focus is entirely education-based. Specifically, the organization creates competency-based training and certification systems for both public- and private-sector food industry professionals within “industry, academia, federal, state and international governments, and other organizations.” Training modules designed by IFPTI are designed to support workplace competencies within the food protection community.
IFPTI collaborates with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health Organization (WHO), Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Additionally, the institute collaborates with various private companies and other government organizations.
For example, one of the stipulations of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) — legislation passed in 2010 that significantly broadened the federal government’s food safety powers — was the establishment of a National Curriculum Standard (NCS). The NCS is a generally-accepted training framework that includes various food safety stipulations as mandated under FSMA. The IFPTI, in collaboration with other government agencies, created this important framework and trains numerous food protection professionals on NCS via an online platform.
Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
The Food Safety and Inspection Service is the food safety branch of the USDA. According to its website, FSIS “is responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.”
Many FSIS initiatives focus squarely on foodborne illness, since products inspected by the USDA — meat, poultry and egg products — are common causes of such illness. Utilizing approximately 6,000 nationwide inspection centers, FSIS inspects products under USDA jurisdiction.
FSIS also educates the public on various food safety topics, including food handling; collaborates with public and private stakeholders to prevent illness; enforces humane slaughter of animals; and engages in other activities pertinent to public health.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service inspects over 3 billion pounds of meat, poultry and egg products and performs scientific analysis on nearly 190,000 food samples annually. Enforcement and compliance activities are performed primarily through the agency’s inspection centers, which are manned by a workforce that exceeds 9,600 people.
The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)
The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives is a scientific committee that is overseen through a collaborative effort by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The United States is a member country of both organizations.
JECFA does not have any direct legislative influence on American policy, although the research presented by the organization has impacted legislation. Instead, JECFA operates as an independent scientific community, researching and publishing findings an array of topics that pertain to food additives. The committee also evaluates other food agents, including contaminants.
Reports published by JECFA have traditionally included risk assessments and evaluations of various contaminants, additives, processing substances, flavoring aids, natural toxins, and veterinary drug residues. JECFA also publishes scientific assessment of the products evaluated and makes recommendations for consumption.