Food production has been regulated in the U.S. since the 1800s. But it was not until 1906, when both the Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act were enacted, that the government took major steps to protect consumers. The Food and Drug Act prohibited interstate commerce in misbranded and adulterated foods, drinks and drugs. While it has since been repealed, new laws regulate a wide range of consumer products.
The Food and Drug Administration is one of the oldest consumer-protection agencies in the country. Since 1979, it has been part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The FDA regulates food, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices, which account for more than a fourth of all consumer spending. It also protects the rights and safety of patients in clinical trials of new medical products and monitors the promotional activities of drug and device manufacturers. The FDA even regulates the labeling of all packaged foods and the safety of the nation's blood supply.
Among important related laws are the Food Additives Amendment of 1957, requiring the evaluation of food additives to establish safety; the Delaney Clause of 1958, forbidding the use of substances found in foods causing cancer in laboratory animals; the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, regulating cosmetics and therapeutic devices; the Kefauver-Harris Drug Amendments of 1962, requiring drug manufacturers to show that their drugs are safe; and the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, requiring all packaged foods to carry labels with nutrition information.
Last update: Sept. 25, 2008
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