Current Developments in U.S. Food Regulation


The issue of food regulation, while not novel, has received increasing media and legislative attention. In 2013, an entire issue of Natural Resources & Environment will be devoted to the topic of food law and regulation. In light of this increased attention, this article generally discusses the history of food regulations in the United States with a review of relevant recent legislative developments and existing funding challenges. The origins of U.S. food regulation date back more than 100 years to the Food and Drugs Act of 1906. Ironically, 1906 also was the year that Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, which helped focus the public’s attention on the nation’s food safety via Sinclair’s exposition of the plight of employees in the meat-packing industry during the early twentieth century.

More than one hundred years later, significant issues remain with the safety of food in the United States. In fact, in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that annually more than forty-eight million Americans become sick from contaminated food every year, one hundred thousand people require hospitalization due to food contamination and three thousand die from food contamination. Recent food-borne illness outbreaks include a listeriosis outbreak from cantaloupes grown in Colorado, listeria in bags of salad, and salmonella associated with tomatoes, papaya, eggs, and peanut butter. In 2012 alone, Consumer Reports published two separate reports on the presence of arsenic in juice and food.

Originally published in Natural Resources & Environment Volume 27, Number 4, Spring 2013.

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