- I heard about a recall of a fruit or vegetable that's been associated with foodborne illness. How do I know if the produce in my refrigerator is implicated since there are no labels or lot numbers?
- My friend told me about an herbal supplement that claims it can reduce blood pressure. Is it FDA-approved?
- My baking wins constant praise and I'd like to open up a small baking business. What regulations will I have to follow as a food business?
These are examples of the kinds of questions answered by the FDA's Food and Cosmetic Information Center (FCIC), which is part of the agency's Center for Food Safety and Nutrition (CFSAN).
The FCIC answers questions about nutrition and the safety and accurate labeling of food, dietary supplements, and cosmetics.
You can contact FCIC by phone and/or e-mail Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366). Or, submit questions by filling out the online form.
Complaints, Safety and Labeling
Most questions FCIC receives fall under the heading of one of three main categories: complaints, safety, and labeling. Inquiries come from consumers, industry representatives, academicians, health care providers and others. The type of questions often depends on who is asking them.
Common questions from a small business might include:
- Do I need to put my company's address on the box?
- Can the product label be in Spanish?
- How do I export my product to the United States?
Common questions from consumers might include:
- I just noticed this jar of pasta sauce is expired, but we already ate it. What should we do?
- Why does my non-dairy creamer have milk in the list of ingredients?
- I broke out in a rash after I tried this new skin cream. What should I do?
If you have had a negative reaction to a food or cosmetic product and want to report a complaint, you can do so by contacting CFSAN's Adverse Event Reporting System (CAERS).
Ask the Experts
FCIC's trained public affairs specialists have the answers to your food and cosmetics-related questions.
Public affairs specialist Veronica Douglass says her colleagues are a diverse group, and many have backgrounds related to foods. “Several of us have worked at the United States Department of Agriculture,” Douglass says. “But we also have on board a certified chef and a former restaurant owner, among others.”
Public affairs specialists have training from CFSAN offices on their programs and activities. In addition, they are up to speed on key FDA initiatives, including updates to the Nutrition Facts label, and implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.
“If the specialists don't have the answers, they will know who does,” says FCIC branch chief Deborah Price.
Douglass adds that in such cases, specialists will invite the caller to submit their question on a web form, and make sure that form gets routed to the appropriate subject matter expert with FDA or to an outside agency, when applicable.
“I know I've had the experience of wanting to ask a question about a government rule or regulation only to call the agency and get a recorded message—or be directed back to their website,” Price says “Sometimes I want the courtesy of being able to talk to an actual person. And the people who contact the Center do, too. We're happy to be able to provide that service.”
March 7, 2017