OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

January 24, 1990

Mr. John E. Lee, III
Director of Safety and Loss Control
National Oats Company
1515 H Avenue, N.E.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52402

Dear Mr. Lee:

This is in response to your letter of November 27, 1989, to Mr. Barry White, Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Directorate of Safety Standards Programs. Your letter, which raised concerns about the applicability of OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard, (HCS) 29 CFR 1910.1200, was referred to me; please allow me to apologize for the delay of this response.

You specifically questioned "whether food products are guided by the OSHA Standard 1910.1200?" The HCS, at section (b)(5)(ii) specifically exempts from the labeling requirements of the HCS any food or food additive that is subject to the labeling requirements of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In addition, section (b)(6)(v) states that the entire standard does not apply to "Food, drugs, cosmetics or alcoholic beverages in a retail establishment which are packaged for sale to consumers." Food and food products are therefore not totally exempt from coverage under the provisions of the HCS.

Chemical manufacturers and importers are responsible for performing a hazard determination on the chemicals they produce to determine if, under normal conditions of use, their product could result in a hazardous exposure situation for downstream employees who will be working with or otherwise handling that product. "Chemical" is broadly defined in the HCS as "any element, chemical compound, or mixture of elements and/or compounds," and therefore includes food and food additives. Food products, like any other chemical product, must be evaluated for their downstream hazardous exposure potential. If there is no potential for worker exposure to any health or physical hazard (as defined in Appendix A of the standard), then the product is not subject to the provisions of the HCS and no material safety data sheet (MSDS) need be prepared for it.

As an example, workers who work with flour may be exposed to the potential hazards of explosion and or combustion which may occur if flour becomes airborne in sufficient concentrations. This certainly represents a potential physical hazard which would have to be noted on an accompanying MSDS for that (food) product.

I hope this helps clarify the concerns you raised. For your further reference I am enclosing a copy of the final Hazard Communication Standard as published in the Federal Register August 24, 1987. Please feel free to contact me again if I can be of further assistance.

Thomas J. Shepich, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs