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MOU 225-75-8004

Memorandum of Understanding
Between The U.S. Department of Agriculture
and The Department of Health and Human Services



This agreement delineates the respective responsibilities of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for food inspections during wartime emergencies. It establishes procedures for joint planning for utilization of inspection capabilities and for coordination of DHHS and USDA food inspection activities in wartime.



Executive Order 11490, as amended by Executive Order 11921, assigns emergency preparedness functions to the Federal Departments. In 1971, in recognition of their joint responsibilities, DHHS (then the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare) and USDA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) defining these responsibilities. This agreement revises and supersedes that MOU.



It is the intent of USDA and DHHS to assure that the public's food supply is as safe as possible under postattack conditions. The relaxation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food inspection standards that might become necessary following the beginning of a general war will be limited to the immediate postattack period. This period may be extended by the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, DHHS, or such other Federal officials as may be designated to act. The emergency period inspection guidelines established pursuant to this agreement shall be regarded as a minimum, and normal inspection standards shall be used whenever possible except when normal standards would reduce the amount of food available to less than needed quantities.



In accordance with Executive Order 11490, as amended by Executive Order 11921, the Secretary, DHHS, and the Secretary, USDA, are authorized and directed to initiate the development of preparedness programs for the coordination of emergency services with other departments and agencies that have emergency preparedness responsibilities.


A. Department of Health and Human Services

The Assistant Secretary for Health has redelegated to the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, all authority delegated to him by the Secretary, for the preparation of preparedness programs pertaining to the maintenance of safety in the manufacture and distribution of food, drugs, and biologicals in an emergency under Executive Order 11490, as amended by Executive Order 11921, Part 11, as follows: Section 1103 (4), and those portions of section 1103 (1), (2), and (3); 3001 (2) and (3); 3002 (1), (2), and (3); and 3004 that related to food, drugs, and biologicals.


B. U.S. Department of Agriculture

The Secretary of Agriculture has assigned to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) responsibilities for the preparation of national emergency plans and development of preparedness programs under Executive Order 11490, as amended by Executive Order 11921, Part 8, as follows: Section 802 (1) and (4); section 803 (1); and section 804 (2).


V. DEFINTION For the purpose of this agreement, the following definitions shall apply:


A. Food. The term "food" means articles and components of such articles used for food or drink for humans.


B. Safe Foods. Safe foods are those that are found to be suitable for human consumption under emergency guidelines as established in this agreement.  Foods are "suitable food for human consumption" when they are not in whole or in part filthy, putrid, decomposed, or contaminated with poisonous or deleterious substances (including bacteriological, chemical, or radiological contamination) that may render them injurious to health.


C. Food Inspection: Food inspection refers to the inspection of food commodities and the facilities of food manufacturers, as well as the processing, handling, storing, and distribution of food.  Emergency food inspections shall be limited to examination for spoilage, disease, filth, and other dangerous contamination including radiological contamination. During the immediate postattack period, instrumentation or laboratory analysis will not be included in such inspections unless the inspector has reason to believe that the food may be contaminated with injurious substances that can only be detected or evaluated by instrumented procedures or laboratory analysis.


D. Emergency Inspectors: Include USDA-trained personnel who are qualified to carry out emergency food inspection functions and who are familiar with the appropriate FDA policies and guidelines.


E. General War: For purpose of this agreement, general war includes any attack upon the United States, including a nuclear attack or an attack with biological or chemical agents. While strategic warning is a possibility, such and attack will create unprecedented and exceedingly difficult problems in the immediate postattack period.


F. Chemical Agents: These agents are chemical substances that by their own action produce a physiological reaction in humans, animals, or crops and that might be used in an attack on the United States.


G. Biological Agents: Any living microorganism that causes disease in humans, animals or plants or causes the deterioration of material and that might be used in an attack on the United States.


H. Radiological Contamination: The presence of radioactive materials in or on food at levels greater than those normally occurring.


I. Immediate Postattack Period. The immediate postattack period will be limited to the first 2 weeks following the beginning of a general war.



To facilitate the inspection of food for safety in the immediate post-attack period, the following procedures will be followed:


A. USDA Food Inspectors and Food Graders, or USDA designated Food Inspectors and Food Graders, may act in their assigned locations to inspect and approve foods meeting emergency standards for safety.


B. DHHS/FDA will provide USDA with appropriate guidelines for use by designated USDA personnel in assuring compliance with basic policies for food inspection in the emergency period.



In the preparation of national emergency plans applicable to the production, distribution, and consumption of food, the protection of the public from shortages or dangerous contamination of foods, shall be foremost. USDA and DHHS/FDA shall be guided by the following policies:


A. Guidelines. In coordination with USDA and other appropriate Federal departments and agencies, FDA will initiate the development of specific guidelines for the use of foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, milk and eggs, livestock, poultry and fish, and grain crops that may have been contaminated by radioactive fallout or biological or chemical agents. Such guidelines will consider the necessity for an adequate food supply. Such guidelines should also include simple criteria for use on a local basis. A principal function of FDA and USDA in the immediate postattack period is to provide specific recommendations on the use and management of food resources.


B. Interagency Coordination. Staff units and officials of USDA and DHHS/FDA shall confer on matters of joint concern and adopt plans for the efficient utilization of food inspection services during postattack operations.


(1) These plans will be for the purpose of assuring that:


(a) Foods in the facilities described in paragraph V.c., above, will be inspected for safety before use if those facilities have been damaged. The determination of the appropriate disposition of these foods will be made by the emergency inspector.


(b) If a facility described in paragraph V.c., above, has been damaged, it will be permitted to resume operation following any needed decontamination and minimum essential repairs.


(c) If a facility described in paragraph V.c., above, has not been damage, it will be permitted to resume operation as soon as the equipment, the environment in the facility, and any raw matrials used at the facility are determined safe for use.


(2) During the emergency, USDA personnel designated as emergency inspectors may be shifted from their regular stations to an affected area elsewhere for such periods of time as the emergency requires. Such shifts will be at the request of DHHS/FDA and with the concurrence of USDA.


C. Joint Issuance. USDA and DHHS/FDA shall routinely provide to each other all pertinent announcements and/or directives that relate to war emergency food inspection procedures and policies. Proposed issuances by either agency directly involving assigned functions of the other agency shall be submitted to the other agency for concurrence prior to issuance.



In initiating and conducting emergency operations, the following procedure will be followed:


A. Headquarters. The emergency liaison officers appointed by DHHS and USDA shall each be assigned to the other agency's headquarters emergency relocation sites for the purpose of coordinating food inspection services.


B. Field Activities. It is agreed that in the event of a general war:


(1) Current preattack interagency agreements shall continue in effect where applicable.

(2) The emergency food inspection services describe above shall automatically go into effect.



A. For DHHS:

Department of Health and Human Services
Food and Drug Administration
Director, Emergency Epidemiological Operations Branch
(currently, Richard C. Swanson)
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 13-62
Rockville, Maryland 20857
(301) 443-4667


B. For USDA:

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Food Safety and Inspection Service
Director, Office of Emergency Planning
(currently, George E. Bickerton)
300 12th Street, S.W., Room 108
Washington, D.C. 20250
(202) 475-3683



This agreement becomes effective upon acceptance by both parties. It may be modified by mutual agreement or terminated by either party at any time upon a thirty day advance written notice to the other party.

Approved and Accepted
for the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Signed by: C.W. McMillan
Assistant Secretary
Marketing and Inspection Services
Date: December 13, 1983

Approved and Accepted
for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Signed by: Mark Novitch
Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs
Food and Drug Administration
Date: October 26, 1983

Approved and Accepted
for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Signed by: Edward N. Brandt, Jr.
Assistant Secretary for Health
Date: December 17, 1983

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