Which Food Products Fall Under USDA Jurisdiction?

Here at FoodReady food safety software we get a lot of requests for businesses to prepare for USDA approval by our USDA Consultant. And we also get asked if people’s products should be approved or certified by the USDA or ...

What products does the USDA regulate

Here at FoodReady food safety software we get a lot of requests for businesses to prepare for USDA approval by our USDA Consultant.  And we also get asked if people’s products should be approved or certified by the USDA or the FDA. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for the safety and integrity of meat, poultry and egg products in the United States. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is responsible for ensuring that these products meet federal standards for wholesomeness, while also preventing adulterated food from reaching consumers. This article will address some common questions about which foods fall under USDA jurisdiction, how you can get certified organic food products and what certification options exist if you want to sell food items at a farmer’s market or online store.

USDA food safety is different than FDA

The USDA is responsible for meat, poultry, eggs, milk (except fluid milk), catfish and grapefruit. The FDA regulates all other food products except meat and poultry. So while the USDA has a different focus than the FDA (the USDA focuses more on meat and poultry while the FDA focuses on seafood and other products and performs recalls ), they do both have their own responsibilities related to food safety. 

The USDA inspects these meats

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the production, packaging and marketing of certain meat products. This includes beef, pork, lamb and veal; goat; mutton (sheep); horse; venison (deer) and bison (buffalo). The USDA also inspects elk meat processed by a licensed facilities in Colorado or Wyoming.

Poultry

USDA is responsible for poultry inspection, so it’s important to know the difference between USDA-regulated products and those that aren’t. The agency can provide information on the following:

      • Poultry products (further broken down as chicken, turkey, duck and goose) with no added ingredients or additives

      • Chicken and turkey labeled “organic” or “natural”

    Eggs

    Eggs are a little confusing. They are regulated by both agencies and it depends on how they are processed. The FDA regulates egg processing plants that wash, sort, and pack eggs. However, eggs are not considered a dairy product and therefore do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). But egg products, such as dried, frozen, or liquid eggs, are under USDA jurisdiction. To make things more convoluted, the USDA regulates egg product processing plants, such as plants that break and pasteurize eggs.

    Milk and milk products

    The USDA is responsible for inspecting all milk and milk products in the US. However, the FDA is responsible for inspecting meat, eggs, seafood, and produce. The USDA does not inspect these products.

    The difference between the two agencies is that the USDA regulates what goes into a product (such as preservatives or other additives) while the FDA regulates what comes out of a product (such as pesticides).

    Cold pressed raw juice

    Cold pressed raw juice is a raw food product that falls under USDA jurisdiction. This means that it must be produced, stored and handled in facilities that are clean, inspected and monitored by government officials to prevent contamination.

    Catfish

    Catfish, in this instance, refers to channel catfish and blue catfish. Channel catfish are the most widely farmed species of freshwater fish on Earth. They can be found all over the United States, but they’re native to the Mississippi River basin (including Illinois). Blue catfish are usually found in coastal waters and large rivers of North America; their range extends from Texas up through Canada and into the Atlantic Ocean.

    Catfish sold in restaurants must come from approved farms that meet certain criteria outlined by the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). The restaurant must be able to provide documentation that their product is farm-raised and graded as “prime” or “choice” with no less than 30% protein content . If you purchase fresh or frozen products from a grocery store, however, this information will not be available unless it’s labeled as such by the retailer—which means that unless there is ‘”Farm Raised” somewhere on your package of frozen filets you have no guarantee about where those fish came from!

    How do you get USDA organic certification of food products?

    The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the regulatory body that oversees most organic certification in America. It’s one of three agencies that oversee organic standards, but it’s the only agency that inspects produce and livestock products to make sure they meet USDA organic standards.

    USDA organic certification on food product

    The first step to getting a food product certified as USDA-certified organic is to find a certifying agent, who will then verify your farm or company meets all USDA requirements for producing an agricultural product. The certifier will also perform inspections on your farm or business to make sure the label claims are accurate.

    Once you’ve found an accredited certifier, they’ll conduct initial assessments to determine whether your farm or facility can be certified as meeting their criteria for producing products under their jurisdiction—for example, if you’re wanting to get FDA labeling for milk from cows fed only grass instead of grain-based feedstuffs like corn and soybeans (as many large dairy farms do), then this would fall under USDA jurisdiction rather than FDA jurisdiction because milk falls under Section 131(a)6 which states: “Milk…from animals fed rations consisting wholly of any combination of hay; pasture; fodder grains…”

    Certifiers look at everything from how animals were raised before slaughtering them for meat (grass-fed vs factory farmed) all the way down through how many people work full time on their farm so they can be considered “family farmers.” If everything checks out by these strict guidelines then congratulations! 

    What businesses are usually regulated by the USDA?

    As you can probably guess, businesses that process any of the USDA regulated food products are regulated by the USDA. For example:

        • Slaughterhouses

        • Meat Processors

        • Poultry Processors

        • Egg Processors

        • USDA Certified Food Processors

        • Food processors whose products contain meat, for example food products with the following characteristics are regulated by the USDA. Such as products that contain more than 2% cooked meat, 3% raw meat, 2% cooked poultry meat, or products that contain 10% cooked poultry skins.

      The USDA has control over many food products. However, there are some exceptions including citrus juice and other items that fall under FDA jurisdiction. The goal of this article was to inform consumers about what foods fall under USDA jurisdiction and whether your business needs USDA certification and inspection.

       

      USDA Food Safety FAQs:

      United States Department of Agriculture.

      This means that the USDA has gathered evidence from the producer that the product is organic. 

      Prime is the USDA’s highest grade of meat. Prime meat has the highest level of marbling over the other grades.

      The USDA Process Verified Program is a way for agricultural suppliers to market their products to customers by demonstrating that they have met certain quality standards.

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      Saro Loucks

      Saro Loucks is the Director of Content and a Food Safety Advisor for FoodReady. Saro is certified in HACCP and a trained SQF Practitioner. When Saro is not editing, writing, or advising new customers on what food safety goals they should pursue, she enjoys spending time with her family, baking gluten-free sourdough bread, and playing Mahjong.
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