Tuesday, January 22, 2019

FDA…USDA…Organic, Non-Organic? How Do You Know What’s In Your Food?

Ever wonder who actually regulates the labels that you (sometimes) read on the food you buy? One might assume it’s the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), but then all the organic products say “USDA Organic”….and even still the non-GMO products have a whole different stamp on them….Who does what?

USDA Organic Label Image
Well, there are a few different Federal agencies that look after that. The idea about the FDA is good, because most food labels fall under their jurisdiction. However, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) governs food labeling requirements for meat, poultry, and eggs as well as what constitutes “Organic” for the purposes of that familiar little green and white circle. Additionally, the Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade within the Department of the Treasury has jurisdiction over, well, alcohol labels. On the international side of things, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) takes part in treaty negotiations regarding food labeling in international trade.

The Non-GMO Project, whose stamp often appears beside the “USDA Organic” symbol, is actually a non-profit organization dedicated to offering a third-party non-GMO verification program, and is therefore not a regulatory regime.

All that to say, it’s (not surprisingly) a little complex, but it helps to know where to start. If you want to know what “Cage Free” on your egg carton means, you’ll want to go to the USDA resources for that. On the other hand, for “major food allergens,” you’ll want to hunt down FDA offerings to get some guidance. Food labeling is increasingly becoming a topic of discussion in today’s society. It’s good to know where to go.

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