The food industry is a massive one, with lots of departments and regulations. In this article, find out which regulatory agencies exist and what they do in order to make sure that the food we eat is safe.

Local Health Departments

Local health departments are responsible for ensuring that food service establishments such as restaurants, food stands, delis, meat markets, cafeterias, mobile food units, push carts, and institutional kitchens, comply with food safety laws and regulations. They conduct inspections of these establishments and can shut them down if they find violations. Health departments also investigate outbreaks of foodborne illness and work to prevent them from happening in the first place. If you have any concerns about the safety of the food you’re eating, your local health department is a great resource to turn to. You can find contact information for your local department on your state or county’s website.

Food and Drug Administration

The FDA is responsible for ensuring that the food supply in the United States is safe. They do this by setting standards for food manufacturers and enforcing these standards through inspections and recalls. The FDA also educates consumers about food safety through its website and social media channels. The FDA’s food safety regulations are designed to protect consumers from harmful foodborne illnesses. These regulations cover all aspects of the food production process, from farm to table. They include requirements for food manufacturers to use good manufacturing practices, test their products for contaminants, and label their products correctly.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the primary federal agency responsible for regulating the meat, poultry, and egg products industries. FSIS inspectors are stationed in slaughter and processing plants to verify that these facilities are following FSIS regulations designed to protect public health. The FSIS also oversees the labeling of these products to ensure that consumers are provided with accurate information about their contents. In addition to meat, poultry, and eggs, the USDA also regulates other food products such as dairy, seafood, fruits, and vegetables. The agency strives to ensure that these foods are safe to consume and free of harmful pathogens. The USDA also works to promote the nutritional value of these foods by providing educational resources on healthy eating habits.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC’s food safety role is to protect the public from harmful foodborne illnesses. The agency does this by working with state and local health departments to investigate outbreaks of foodborne illness, developing and sharing science-based recommendations for preventing foodborne illness, informing the public on what to do if exposed to foodborne pathogens, and how to prevent exposure to them.

Custom and Border Protection

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the federal law enforcement agency responsible for regulating the import and export of goods into and out of the United States. CBP enforces a variety of laws designed to protect the American people and economy from harmful goods, including food.

In addition to inspecting incoming shipments of food, CBP also works to prevent the introduction of harmful pests and diseases into the country. To do this, CBP has a team of agricultural specialists who work at ports of entry to inspect arriving shipments of fruits, vegetables, plants, meat, and poultry. These specialists are trained to identify potential pests and diseases that could threaten American agriculture.

CBP also regulates the labeling of imported food products to ensure that they meet U.S. standards. For example, all imported foods must be labeled with their country of origin. This helps consumers make informed choices about the foods they purchase, and it helps ensure that imported foods meet American safety and quality standards.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is a federal law enforcement agency within the United States Department of Justice. The ATF’s primary mission is to protect the public from violent criminals, illegal firearms, explosives, and arson. The ATF investigates violations of these laws and regulations, assists other law enforcement agencies in their investigations of these violations, and works with the courts to prosecute violators. The ATF is unique among federal law enforcement agencies in that it has dual responsibilities: enforcing criminal laws and regulating lawful commerce. The ATF is specifically tasked with enforcing the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, which governs the production, importation, and distribution of alcohol. In addition to enforcing the law, the ATF also works to prevent alcohol-related crime and to educate the public about the dangers of alcohol abuse.

Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA has a number of roles in ensuring food safety, both directly and indirectly. One of the most important ways the EPA safeguards our food supply is by regulating pesticides. The EPA sets tolerances for the amount of pesticide residue that can be present on foods and works to ensure that these levels are not exceeded. The EPA also monitors for and investigates incidents of pesticide poisoning. The EPA also regulates the disposal of hazardous wastes, which can include chemicals used in food production or processing. By ensuring that these materials are properly disposed of, the EPA helps to prevent them from contaminating our food supply. The agency also plays a role in protecting water supplies, which can be contaminated by runoff from farms or other sources. The EPA works to ensure that drinking water standards are met and monitors for potential contamination sources. In addition to these direct activities, the EPA also provides funding and support for research on food safety issues. This research helps us to better understand the risks posed by different contaminants, and how best to protect ourselves from them.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is responsible for regulating the safety of seafood in the United States. NOAA’s Seafood Inspection Program is charged with ensuring that seafood products are safe, wholesome, and properly labeled. Seafood safety is regulated by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), which gives NOAA authority to inspect seafood processing facilities and set quality standards for seafood products. The seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation require processors to develop and implement plans to prevent, eliminate, or reduce hazards associated with the processing of fish and fishery products. In addition to inspecting seafood processing facilities, NOAA also conducts research on seafood safety issues and develops educational materials on the proper handling and cooking of seafood products. NOAA also works with state partners to monitor coastal waters for potential health hazards and issue advisories when necessary.


The United States has a complex food regulatory system, with various agencies playing different roles in ensuring the safety and quality of the food supply. While there is always room for improvement, the current system does a good job of protecting consumers from harmful foodborne contaminants. By understanding the roles of each agency, we can be better informed about how our food is regulated and what we can do to help keep our food safe.


  • Courtney Simons

    Dr. Courtney Simons has served as a food science researcher and educator for over a decade. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and a Ph.D. in Cereal Science from North Dakota State University.