History and Purpose of Food Safety Regulations

The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corp (PHS) is a uniformed service of the United States comprised of health professionals and led by the Office of the Surgeon General. The origins of the agency can be traced to a 1798 act that was passed to provide care for sick and injured merchant seamen. Formalized in 1889, it oversaw quarantines and medical examinations of immigrants. The agency commissioned officers to control the spread smallpox: deadly viral disease of contagious diseases such as smallpox and yellow fever through the 1900s.

It also conducted biomedical research, provided health care to deprived groups, and supplied medical assistance to victims of natural disasters.

The PHS began its food-protection activities in the early 1900s with studies on the role of milk in the spread of disease. Model food codes and other regulations soon evolved to ensure food quality and safety. These include sanitary practices at processing plants, safety standards for ingredients, and labeling laws to assist state and local governments in initiating and maintaining effective programs for the prevention of food-borne illness. see also Additives and Preservatives; Biotechnology; Genetically Modified Foods; Irradiation; Organisms, Food-Borne; Pesticides; Regulatory Agencies.

Marilyn K. Dahl


Jackson, R. (1997). Nutrition and Food Services for Integrated Health Care. Gaithers-burg, MD: Aspen.

National Restaurant Association Foundation (2002). ServSafe Essentials, 2nd edition. Chicago: Author.

Sizer, Francis, and Whitney, Eleanor (2003). Nutrition Concepts and Controversies, 9th edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson.

Internet Resources

  1. S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. FDA Food Code. Available from <http://www.dfsan.fda.gov>
  2. S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "Retail Food Stores and Food Service Establishments: Food Security Preventative Measures Guidance." Available from <http://www.dfsan.fda.gov>
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