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GOVERNMENT AGENCIES, U.S.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Doering, Ronald L. “Reforming Canada’s Food Inspection Sys- tem: The Case of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

(CFIA).” Journal of the Association of Food and Drug Officials

62, no. 3 (1998): 1–15.

European Food Safety Authority website. Available at http:// www.europa.eu.int/comm/food.

The World Health Organization’s web site is available at www .who.int.

Robin Yeaton Woo

GOVERNMENT AGENCIES, U.S. Several de-

partments and agencies of the United States government have responsibility for various aspects of food produc- tion, marketing, regulation, safety, and consumer pro- tection. Government agencies serve a multiplicity of purposes, but the net effect of U.S. government policy is to provide an abundance of food at relatively low cost.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has prime responsibility for encouraging agri- culture and food production, which it does through a host of programs aimed at the farm community. It adminis- ters a program of price supports for major commodities, such as corn, wheat, rice and soybeans, which makes pay- ments to farmers if the market prices fall below target levels. The program is viewed as a “safety net” for farm- ers and as a boon to consumers since it calls forth abun- dant supplies of basic commodities. It has the potential of costing the government billions of dollars per year, the actual amount depending on market prices. The existence of such enormous subsidies is often an issue with the United States’s international trading partners, despite the fact that many of them also subsidize their farmers.

Prices of other goods, such as milk, are supported through federally enforced marketing orders that set minimum prices paid to farmers. Programs for specific crops of fruits, vegetables, and nuts are intended to sta- bilize supplies and market prices. Some crops, from al- monds to avocados, and some animal products, such as beef, pork, and milk, have programs supported by pro- ducers and enforced by the government to raise money for advertising and marketing.

Food safety is a major concern of several agencies, including the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Ser- vice (FSIS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). FSIS provides mandatory, carcass-by-carcass inspection of slaughtered livestock and poultry to ensure that meat and poultry products are wholesome and not adulterated. At the turn of the twenty-first century, more than seven thousand FSIS inspectors work in meat and poultry plants across the country; some states have equivalent, federally recognized programs in which the inspectors are em- ployed by the state. FSIS also monitors processing plants for cleanliness and the avoidance of known hazards (such

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as foreign matter in meat and poultry). The agency also oversees labeling; no statements or claims can be made on meat and poultry packaging that are not first approved by FSIS.

The Agricultural Marketing Service offers a volun- tary but widely used grading program for meat and poul- try, fruits and vegetables (both fresh and processed), milk and dairy products, and eggs. Only products with the top grade in each category are normally sold at retail. Pro- ducers pay for the grading inspections.

Food products other than meat and poultry are gen- erally the responsibility of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), which sets stan- dards for products other than meat and poultry. Because, as of 2001, CFSAN employs fewer than eight hundred inspectors to monitor more than fifty thousand process- ing plants, it relies mainly on sampling and oversight of quality assurance systems to ensure product safety.

The federal agency with primary responsibility for seafood is the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Ad- ministration (NOAA) in the Department of Commerce. NMFS offers a voluntary seafood inspection program to the industry that allows products to carry the mark “Processed Under Federal Inspection” and/or a seal “U.S. Grade A.” NMFS estimates that about 17 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is certified under the auspices of the seafood inspection program.

FDA also regulates the labeling of food packages ac- cording to the name of the product, its ingredients, and nutritional value, among other information. It regulates the meaning of label terms such as “light” or “low-fat.” Data developed or reviewed by the FDA and USDA pro- vide the basis for the Nutrition Facts labels required on packaged food.

The Environmental Protection Agency sets toler- ances for pesticide residues in or on food products or in animal feeds. These tolerance levels, which are set at very low levels, are enforced by CFSAN and FSIS through random sampling of food products and feed.

As a major player in the world food trade, the United States participates in Codex Alimentarius, the interna- tional body that fosters trade by creating widely recog- nized standards. The U.S. office of Codex is housed at the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and of- ficials from FSIS, FDA, and EPA coordinate Codex ac- tivities for the U.S. government.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers food assistance, programs intended to help the econom- ically disadvantaged get more to eat and to understand better the importance of proper nutrition. The food stamp program is one of the nation’s largest welfare pro- grams, providing benefits to needy people to increase their food purchasing power. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC, provides nutritious food supplements and

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