Types of FDA Enforcement Actions
The objective of FDA regulatory programs is to assure compliance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act). Specific enforcement activities include actions to correct and prevent violations, remove violative products or goods from the market, and punish offenders. The type of enforcement activity FDA uses will depend on the nature of the violation. The range of enforcement activities include issuing a letter notifying the individual or firm of a violation and requesting correction, to criminal prosecution of the individual or firm. Adulteration or misbranding is usually the result of an individual failing to take steps to assure compliance with the law. Such an individual may be liable for a violation of the Act and, if found guilty, be subject to the penalties specified by the law.
Warning Letters - are sent to the individuals or firms, advising them of specific noted violations.; These letters request a written response as to the steps which will be taken to correct the violation. These letters constitute one form of warning that can be issued under current Agency policy.
Seizure - An action brought against an FDA-regulated product because it is adulterated and/or misbranded within the meaning of the Act. The purpose of such an action is to remove specific violative goods from commerce.
Injunction - An order by a court that requires an individual or corporation to do or refrain from doing a specific act. FDA may seek injunctions against individuals and/or corporations to prevent them from violating or causing violations of the Act.
Criminal prosecution - may be recommended in appropriate cases for violation of Section 301 of the Act.; Misdemeanor convictions, which do not require proof of intent to violate the Act, can result in fines and/or imprisonment up to one year. Felony convictions, which apply in the case of a second violation or intent to defraud or mislead, can result in fines and/or imprisonment up to three years.
The FDA field offices have primary responsibility for conducting inspections or investigations and collecting samples which may lead to recommendations for enforcement/regulatory action. The type of action recommended will depend upon the nature of the violation and the public health concern, Agency policy, previous history of violations by the firm, and other factors.
Criminal Fines for Food Drug and Cosmetic Act Violations
Misdemeanor fines under the Act may reach $500,000 under some circumstances. The Criminal Fine Enforcement Act of 1984 (Public Law 98-596) provides for fines for violations of Federal law. Although it is not part of the Act, the Criminal Fine Enforcement Act of 1994 applies to all fines levied under the Act, as well as other statutes that contain provisions enforced by FDA.
The following fines are applicable for each offense:
- Up to $100,000 for a misdemeanor by an individual that does not result in death.
- Up to $200,000 for a misdemeanor by a corporation that does not result in death.
- Up to $250,000 for a misdemeanor by an individual that results in death, or a felony.
- Up to $500,000 for a misdemeanor by a corporation that results in death, or a felony.
The maximum imprisonment for a misdemeanor under the Act remains a year for each offense.