The FDA’s Food and Cosmetic Information Center (FCIC) answers questions about nutrition and the safety and labeling of food, dietary supplements and cosmetics. Here are just a few examples of questions answered by the FCIC, which is part of the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN):
Question: I operate a restaurant and would like to start selling my food in grocery stores and online as well. What regulations will I have to follow?
Answer: Please see How to Start a Food Business on the FDA website.
Question: Can I get coronavirus from food?
Answer: Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.
Question: If an employee at my food facility tested positive for COVID-19, do I need to shut down the facility?
Answer: Food facilities need to follow protocols set by local and state health departments, which may vary depending on the amount of community spread of COVID-19 in a given area.
More Questions Since Pandemic Began—Many Relating to COVID-19
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the FCIC staff has been receiving a high volume of questions about food and dietary supplement safety. In the first half of 2020, the FCIC received more than 15,000 inquiries via its online form and phone line.
You can contact the FCIC by phone Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366), or by submitting questions using our online form.
Complaints, Safety and Labeling
Most questions the FCIC receives fall under three main categories: complaints, safety, and labeling. However, this year, the coronavirus has ushered in an array of new topics and areas of interest. 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 include:
- What steps should I take to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus when reopening my business?
- Can I import a dietary supplement that boosts immunity to viruses?
- Will the FDA be performing inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Common questions from consumers include:
- I have heard news reports about coronavirus being found on frozen foods in other countries. Can I get COVID-19 from imported food?
- Does the FDA’s temporary labeling guidance mean allergens don’t need to be listed on food?
- Should I wash my produce in a bleach solution?
For answers to the above questions and other questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) web page.
Ask the Experts
The FCIC’s 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.”
The 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. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCIC’s public affairs specialists have taken the initiative to remain current on the latest FDA guidance and safety alerts.
“If the specialists don’t have the answers, they will know who does,” says FCIC branch chief Deborah Price. 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 within the FDA or to an outside agency, when applicable.
Similarly, the FDA has representatives that answer questions about other topics, such as medical devices, medicines and tobacco. They can be reached by calling 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332).
“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 us do, too. We’re happy to be able to provide that service.”
The FCIC occasionally hears from people who have had a negative reaction to a food or cosmetic and want to report a complaint. Consumers can do so more directly by contacting CFSAN’s Adverse Event Reporting System (CAERS).