Current Law Provides FDA with Authority to Mandate Safety Standards for Produce

Current Law Provides FDA with Authority to Mandate Safety Standards for Produce


Legal analyses by the Congressional Research Service and by the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University conclude that FDA has sufficient authority under existing law to adopt produce-safety regulations.


FDA can rely on provisions of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and the Public Health Service Act (PSHA) in promulgating such regulations.

The FFDCA prohibits the adulteration of food (including fresh produce), and a number of the grounds for finding a food to be adulterated under the Act could apply to the contamination of fresh produce by pathogens such as Salmonella and E.coli O157:H7.

The FFDCA also provides the FDA with broad authority to “promulgate regulations for the efficient enforcement of the Act.”

The PSHA authorizes the FDA to issue regulations to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases.

The FDA has relied on these statutes in adopting regulations governing the safety of seafood and juice, and in proposing rules establishing on-farm measures for the safety of shell eggs.

Courts have interpreted the provisions of the FFDCA and PHSA broadly to protect the public health, and have deferred to FDA's interpretation of these provisions in adopting regulations.

The FFDCA and the PHSA neither expressly authorize nor limit the FDA's on-farm regulatory authority. Both statutes, however, do explicitly provide the FDA with rulemaking authority over specific areas that could be interpreted as covering on-farm activities, and relevant FFDCA provisions apply generally to “food,” without specifying where it is grown or produced.

Additional Resources

Legal Authority Memorandum from the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University

CRS Report for Congress - FDA Authority to Regulate On-Farm Activity

Downloads Full Report
Downloads Full Report

Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies


Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.