We live in a country where we rarely worry about the quality and safety of the food, medicine, and cosmetics we use. And for that, we have the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to thank. The FDA is the government agency responsible for ensuring that products are safe and effective. It sets safety standards, reviews scientific evidence, and conducts research to make sure that each product is doing its job correctly.
We take a brief dive into the history of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration below if you’re interested in learning more about this all-important agency.
What Is the FDA?
The Food and Drug Administration is a federal regulatory agency tasked with maintaining the quality and safety of food, medicine, and cosmetics in the United States. Ensuring businesses sell only high-quality, verified-safe products to consumers prevents health risks caused by contaminated or mislabeled products.
When and Why Was It Founded?
In the 1800s, the quality of food and medicine in the U.S. was abysmal. Many manufacturers produced their products in unsanitary factories and used dangerous preservatives to artificially extend their products’ longevity. Additionally, “quack” products, products that claimed to do things they didn’t, were commonplace.
Reform journalists published many pieces exposing these unsavory practices, but it wasn’t until Upton Sinclair published his particularly scathing expose, The Jungle, that the citizens of the U.S. banded together to demand action.
In 1906, the same year The Jungle caused a public uproar, then-president Theodore Roosevelt signed the Pure Food and Drug Act. This act prohibited the distribution of adulterated or mislabeled products and established the Food and Drug Administration to ensure these hazardous goods were kept off store shelves. The FDA created food and beverage labeling requirements, compelling businesses to list the ingredients on the labels of their products, and mandated the use of “truth-in-labeling” laws, which prohibited false statements about the product’s contents.
The FDA Through the Years
While the FDA of today serves the same purpose it did upon its founding, a series of changes and adaptations mark its history, allowing the agency to better accomplish its mission. Let’s look at the FDA’s most notable milestones:
1938: The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act replaced the Pure Food and Drugs Act. It expanded the FDA’s authority to include cosmetics and therapeutic devices.
1962: The Kefauver-Harris Amendments
The Kefauver-Harris Amendments required drug manufacturers to prove the effectiveness and safety of their products. These amendments led to the FDA becoming more stringent with its drug testing and approval processes.
2010: The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act
This act granted the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products—allowing them to take steps to reduce tobacco-related health issues in the U.S.
The history of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a fascinating one. This once-scrappy agency has grown into a regulatory powerhouse. Thanks to its due diligence in overseeing the food, medicine, and cosmetics industries, North Americans can rest easy knowing the products they use are safe and effective.