As discussed in USDA, FDA, and EPA-confusing authority over livestock production and food labeling, several federal agencies have varying control over livestock production and the food resulting therefrom.
For example, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in USDA is “responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.”
But FDA has authority over almost everything else.
In general, FDA regulates:
other food products (although the U.S. Department of Agriculture plays a lead role in regulating aspects of some meat, poultry, and egg products)
Authority over eggs remains confusingly split between the two agencies.
USDA inspects and grades eggs, and has authority over egg products (liquid, frozen and dehydrated eggs) and poultry farming from an animal health perspective, but FDA is responsible for the food safety of shelled eggs, poultry feed and medicines.
USDA controls poultry vaccines.
FDA and USDA authorize or restrict the labeling of egg (and other) products under their authority, which can result in some confusion.
For example, FDA does not define the term “natural” because
From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.
A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term.
As consumer preference for “natural” and “organic” foods continues to escalate, maybe the two agencies can at least adopt similar definitions for shared terms.
Both agencies also have authority over ractopamine, a growth promotant sometimes used in U.S. hog and cattle production. USDA controls the labeling of meat produced by these animals, but FDA authorizes (or limits) its use as an animal drug and in animal feed and has established the following tolerance levels of residues of the drug found in tissues tested (by FSIS) after slaughter:
(a) Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). The ADI for total residues of ractopamine hydrochloride is 1.25 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day.
(b) Tolerances –(1) Cattle –(i) Liver (the target tissue). The tolerance for ractopamine hydrochloride (the marker residue) is 0.09 parts per million (ppm).
(ii) Muscle. The tolerance for ractopamine hydrochloride (the marker residue) is 0.03 ppm.
(2) Swine –(i) Liver (the target tissue). The tolerance for ractopamine hydrochloride (the marker residue) is 0.15 ppm.
(ii) Muscle. The tolerance for ractopamine hydrochloride (the marker residue) is 0.05 ppm.
(3) Turkeys –(i) Liver (the target tissue). The tolerance for ractopamine (the marker residue) is 0.45 ppm.
(ii) Muscle. The tolerance for ractopamine (the marker residue) is 0.1 ppm.
[68 FR 54659, Sept. 18, 2003, as amended at 73 FR 72715, Dec. 1, 2008]