The United States food supply is one of the safest in the world. Yet each year, approximately 48 million Americans get sick, more than 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die as a result of food-borne illness. Public health practitioners responding to food-borne illness outbreaks must be aware of the roles that both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) play in regulation of food safety.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the National Organics Program (NOP), which dictates the production and handling standards for food that is marketed as organic. The NOP also establishes a national standard regarding the use of the term “organic” in food labeling. This issue brief outlines the four permissible uses of the term as they relate to the percent of organic ingredients included in the food product.
In the U.S., 42.2 million people lack access to adequate food due to insufficient income or other resources. Food insecurity is associated with a wide range of health issues including depression, anxiety, behavioral problems in children, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Conversely, it’s estimated that between 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply is wasted. This waste, in turn, generates substantial greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change. Tax incentives for food donations could be one policy approach to address these issues.
A requester recently contacted the Network to ask how states regulate the use of human waste as a fertilizer. Both federal and state law allow for the use of human waste as an agricultural fertilizer. The land application of biosolids, sewage sludge, and/or domestic septage provides considerable nutrient benefits for the soil, but also presents a range of health and environmental challenges.
Public health lawyers can help state and local officials working on food-borne illness prevention and response in many ways, including:
The Network for Public Health Law provides technical assistance to health officials interested in gaining a better understanding of federal, state and local food safety regulations so that they can better develop public health programs that comply with existing laws.
For legal technical assistance and support with food safety:
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The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, please consult specific legal counsel. For more information on the type of legal assistance the Network can provide, please see frequently asked questions.