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Where Does the FDA Fit In?

Several federal departments and agencies share responsibility for making sure that products sold in the United States are safe.

Toy safety, for example, is mostly monitored by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The United States Department of Agriculture checks meat quality, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates cars. Oversight of drugs, cosmetics, medical devices and most food falls to the Food and Drug Administration.

One Web site, www.recalls.gov, tracks recent actions taken by all those agencies. While steps that lead to a product recall can differ a bit from agency to agency, the FDA's plan, as outlined below, is typical:

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