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What is the difference between the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), FDA regulations, and FDA guidance?

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The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) is a federal law enacted by Congress. It and other federal laws establish the legal framework within which FDA operates. The FD&C Act can be found in the United States Code, which contains all general and permanent U.S. laws, beginning at 21 U.S.C. 301.

FDA develops regulations based on the laws set forth in the FD&C Act or other laws under which FDA operates. FDA follows the procedures required by the Administrative Procedure Act, another federal law, to issue FDA regulations. This typically involves a process known as "notice and comment rulemaking" that allows for public input on a proposed regulation before FDA issues a final regulation. FDA regulations are also federal laws, but they are not part of the FD&C Act. FDA regulations can be found in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

FDA follows the procedures required by its "Good Guidance Practice" regulation to issue FDA guidance. FDA guidance describes the agency’s current thinking on a regulatory issue. Guidance is not legally binding on the public or FDA. The Good Guidance Practice regulation can be found at 21 CFR 10.115.

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