History of FDA and Disaster Relief

FDA Building 31 (left photo) houses the Office of the Commissioner and the Office of Regulatory Department of Health and Human Services. The agency consists of fourteen Centers and Offices. FDA Building 51 (right photo) houses the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. The FDA campus is located at 10903 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20993Photo credits: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration – FDA Bldg 31 – Exterior, Public Domain; Wikipedia Commons

 

President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress establishing the United States Department of Agriculture in 1862. The Act of Incorporation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1863, created the National Academy of Sciences and named 50 charter members. Many of the original NAS members came from a scientific informal network of mostly physical scientists, begun around 1850, working in the vicinity of Cambridge, Massachusetts. These two great scientific agencies, paved the way for the Food and Drug Administration, which emerged over time, from the USDA, founded by the prescient President Abraham Lincoln. Around the world, these U.S. agencies were hailed as a great step forward in government recognition of the role of science in American society. The United States has always been a global leader of scientific solutions.

 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the oldest comprehensive consumer protection agency in the U. S. federal government. Its origins can be traced back to the appointment of Lewis Caleb Beck in the Patent Office around 1848 to carry out chemical analyses of agricultural products, a function that the newly created Department of Agriculture inherited in 1862. Although it was not known by its present name until 1930, FDA’s modern regulatory functions began with the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act, a law a quarter-century in the making that prohibited interstate commerce in adulterated and misbranded food and drugs. Harvey Washington Wiley, Chief Chemist of the Bureau of Chemistry in the Department of Agriculture, had been the driving force behind this law and headed its enforcement in the early years, providing basic elements of protection that consumers had never known before that time.

 

A rectangular shape box with a man battling a skelton (left) and on the right same picture but in the form of a stamp. Photo source: fda.gov

 

The U. S. Post Office recognized the 1906 Act as a landmark of the 20th century when it released this stamp, the design of which was based on a 19th century patent medicine trading card.

 

The FDA and its responsibilities have undergone a metamorphosis since 1906. Similarly, the marketplace itself, the sciences undergirding the products the agency regulates, and the social, cultural, political, and economic changes that have formed the context for these developments, all have witnessed upheavals over the past century. Yet the core public health mission of the agency remains now as it did then. This web site features a variety of portals that offer insight into these changes, from overviews on how consumer protection laws evolved, to case studies that explore and interpret the agency’s work and policies. In addition, the visitor will find links to key related web sites as well as citations to valuable sources to help understand the history of FDA.

 

Several people gathered around a table examining items. FDA Inspector William Ford is at the center of activity in dealing with the 1937 flooding of the Ohio River and its impact on regulated commodities. Photo credit: fda.gov

 

Images from FDA History

The FDA History Office has mounted a series of 200 posters around the headquarters campus in Silver Spring, Maryland, illustrating the evolution of FDA’s work to protect and promote the public health. These include posters from public health campaigns, images of FDA inspectors, analysts, and others at work, and the commodities the agency regulates. These photos are also available for public access on FDA’s Flickr photo-stream disclaimer icon

 

Click here to view FDA photos with captions, that capture the history of this important agency

 

The following is a statement from FDA about crops impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and FDA’s work with farmers affected by the storms.

 

September 14, 2017

 

Statement

 

This is the first time that two category 4 storms have hit the U.S. back-to-back, and the effects have been devastating. At FDA we have a large team working on providing assistance to those affected by these storms, including American farmers who have suffered crop losses. You’ll be hearing a lot from us in the coming weeks, as we do our part to help people continue to recover from these tragic events. Today, we’re providing more information for farmers and food producers who’ve been impacted by these storms, and in particular, the proper handling of crops that have been exposed to floodwaters.

 

The FDA has longstanding experience responding to flooding and storms. We play an integral role, working with states, in protecting the safety of the food supply – both human and animal food. We recognize that these hurricanes have presented unique challenges for farmers, and the FDA is committed to work with growers, as well as with our federal and state partners, to ensure that the food we serve our families is safe and that consumers have confidence in the products they consume.

 

We’ve been in close discussion with farmers, consumer representatives, and state officials regarding concerns about how crops may be impacted by these storms. One crop for which there have been a high number of inquiries is rice. This owes, in particular, to the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the large rice crop in Texas. I want to make it clear that the FDA has not issued a ban on rice or any other food crops. Rice grown in normal conditions and rice that has not been exposed to contaminated floodwaters from the recent hurricanes may enter commerce. Also, rice and other crops that were harvested and stored safely before storms hit should not be considered impacted by these events. The documents we’re issuing today, as well as the direct consultations we’re continuing to have, with state officials and with farmers directly, are aimed at providing our most up-to-date, science-based information on which crops can enter commerce without creating risks to consumers or animals who may be fed crops as part of animal feed.

 

However, we recognize that crops have been and will continue to be impacted in a variety of ways by these storms. There have been substantial crop losses from both storms. Crops may be submerged in flood water, exposed to contaminants, or susceptible to mold. Some of the major concerns for crop safety are heavy metals, chemical, bacterial, and mold contamination. In many cases, it is challenging to determine what contaminants are in crops that were submerged by floodwaters. Both human and animal food must meet well-established safety requirements. FDA has experts that are working closely with state regulators and directly with producers to address questions and concerns.

 

The FDA takes seriously our obligation to provide guidance to support farmers and food producers, who are responsible for the safety of their products. Many of these resources are already available on FDA’s website. Others will be revised in the coming days and issued directly by the agency, as part of our ongoing effort to provide more timely advice for our stakeholders.

 

The FDA staff is continuing to work with USDA, state partners, extension services and other stakeholders to help producers as they work to evaluate the safety of their crops. We recognize that in many cases, it is those on the ground who can best advise farmers and help producers evaluate specific concerns and conditions. We have experts in the affected regions who can help provide direct assistance and we are taking additional steps to support recovery efforts. We also understand that state Departments of Agriculture may have specific requirements regarding any attempt to clean, process, test, use or sell crops for human or animal food.

 

FDA scientists recently had the opportunity to tour farms and packing facilities in Georgia. That trip reminded that farms are different than the other entities FDA regulates. Farms are not just a place of business. Many are homes. Many farms have been in families for generations. As a result, the impact of floods on farms and farmers is especially concerning to FDA. It has hit many farmers hard, destroying their homes and their livelihoods. FDA is leaning forward in our efforts to make sure that we’re providing timely assistance, and that our advice on crop safety reflects our most up-to-date, science based analysis. Our primary mission is the protection and promotion of the public health. We’re committed to making sure food is safe for consumers. But we recognize there are hard questions that must be quickly answered about crops affected by these storms, or else crops that might be safe — because they were not exposed to contaminated floodwaters — could age past their point of use. We recognize the tremendous impact this storm had on region’s farming families. We’re working diligently to provide them with timely guidance. FDA is committed to doing its part to help farmers get back to work.

 

More detailed information on the impacts of flooding on human and animal crop uses can be found on the FDA website. Also available is general information on evaluating the safety of food and animal food crops exposed to flood waters. In addition, you can find Q & A on crops harvested from flooded fields intended for animal food.

The FDA, is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

 

FDA White Oak Campus in Silver Spring, Maryland. Photo credit: FDA.gov

 

Sources: https://www.fda.gov/aboutfda/whatwedo/history/; Wikipedia

 

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