Division of Regulatory Services: Protecting and Serving the Commonwealth
youre buying pet food for Fido, fertilizer for your lawn,
or seeds for your garden, then your purchases are protected by
the Division of Regulatory Services. You can sleep better at night
knowing that regulatory inspectors and chemists are doing their
job to keep the citizens of the commonwealth healthy.
sequesteredon the extreme south side of the University of
Kentucky campus, a small, squarish building houses one of the
most important services for the well-being of Kentuckians. The
College of Agricultures Division of Regulatory Services
assures the citizens of the commonwealth that many of the agricultural
and consumer products they buy are as they are represented on
In fact, regulatory functions that began more than a century ago
were the primary reason for the Colleges rise to prominence.
They also provided most of its financial resources in those early
It was in the early days of the Progressive Era (Grover Cleveland
was president) that the unit started with only one mancalled
the agricultural chemistperforming the important job of
analyzing fertilizers to make sure that they contained what their
legislature in 1886 had passed the fertilizer law,
as it was commonly called then and as it is today. Its real name
perhaps provides both the goal and substance of the bill: An
Act to regulate the sale of fertilizers in this Commonwealth,
and to protect the agriculturist in the purchase and use of the
same. In that act, the director of the Kentucky Agricultural
Experiment Station, established a year earlier at University of
Kentucky, would handle the chores of analyzing fertilizer samples
and enforcing the law pertaining to their labeling.
You see, the 1880s were rife with fraud in a great many things.
Milk routinely was adulterated with embalming fluid to keep it
from souring so quickly; animal feeds contained sawdust to increase
their weight, and bags
of seed were stove piped to increase profits for the
sellers (this involved putting a stove pipe in the middle of the
sack, filling the stove pipe with chaff, with seed only around
the stove pipe prior to the pipe being pulled out). Fertilizers
sometimes contained mostly inert ingredients.
Today, the divisions 62 employees not only monitor fertilizers
sold in Kentucky, they also check animal feeds (for both livestock
and pets) for accurate labeling, test seeds sold in the commonwealth
for germination quality, analyze soils for farmers to help them
know how much and what types of fertilizers would increase yields,
and test raw farm milk to make sure that it is marketed accurately.
It is because of the divisions work that consumers are so
well protected today.
Eli Miller, director of Regulatory Services, said about the divisions
work: We dont find too many bad actors these days.
Perhaps our continuous monitoring for fraud dissuades potential
bad actors from trying to hoodwink the public. Today, violations
occur usually because vendors didnt understand the laws
pertaining to their commodity. The vast majority of businesses
that we regulate are extremely ethical and try to sell quality
products. To help them, we do a great deal of vendor education.
Now, more than a century after the first Kentucky fertilizer act,
chemists in the Division of Regulatory Services annually analyze
nearly 3,500 samples of fertilizer submitted from some 950,000
tons of fertilizer sold in Kentucky. These samples are analyzed
to ensure the fertilizer contains what the vendor guarantees on
the label, usually in terms of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium,
and sometimes chloride levels, and less frequently, secondary
and micro-nutrient composition.
Todays fertilizer analyses are far more comprehensive, accurate,
and speedy than those in the early days. In the 1880s, the agricultural
chemist generally analyzed samples sent to Lexington by farmers
in the state. Each analysis in those early times took several
days to complete. Now, samples are collected by 10 inspectors
throughout Kentuckyusually from manufacturers or mixers
of fertilizersand are analyzed by sophisticated laboratory
equipment in a matter of minutes. And now, fertilizer can be checked
for more than the big three (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash);
certain samples are monitored for their guarantee of secondary
and micro-nutrients and 10 elements.
The division also inspects specialty (non-farm) fertilizersthose
manufactured for home lawns, gardens, and golf courses, among
othersfor proper labeling and guaranteed nutrients. Samples
are analyzed to help assure that consumers get what they pay for.
Only about 12 percent of the samples we analyze are found
to be less than their guaranteed analysis. In those cases, we
issue a stop sale order, which means that the fertilizer
cannot be sold in Kentucky until it is re-labeled to reflect its
true composition, said David Terry, coordinator of the fertilizer
The division may impose penalties on manufacturers of mislabeled
fertilizer. The penalties are paid to its purchasers, if they
are known. Otherwise, the money is used by the division to maintain
its operation, Terry said.
Generally, the seller isnt trying to defraud anyone.
Simply, they made a mistake, and they can fix that by re-labeling
their product to reflect the accurate analysis, Terry said.
He noted that to help fertilizer mixers and manufacturers avoid
problems, the fertilizer group in the division holds periodic
educational meetings about how to blend quality fertilizers and
remain in compliance with Kentuckys laws.
and Pet Feeds
the early and profound successes of the fertilizer law, in 1906
the Kentucky legislature added the protection of the states
livestock and poultry producers to the mission of the Agricultural
The Kentucky Commercial Feed Law regulates materials offered for
sale as feed or mixing in feed, with exemptions for unprocessed
grain, hay, and silage. In reality, any commercial animal feed
offered for sale in Kentucky must be inspected. Inspection today
covers much more than analysis for the standard nutrients. It
includes checking for antibiotics, ensuring that no prohibited
animal proteins are fed to ruminant animals as a means of preventing
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease), checking that
toxins produced by natural molds are not at harmful levels, and
ensuring that feeds are produced in licensed facilities and are
free from chemical contaminations.
We are on the cusp of a new era in regulation of animal
feeds. I suspect that we in the regulation industry will be called
upon to provide third party certification in the very near future,
said Steve Traylor, coordinator of the animal feed program. Third
party certification refers to tracing the animal from the farm
to the consumer, including the feed the animal ate.
large fast food entities are requiring a history for
all animal products that they use in their foods. By history,
they want to make sure that the animals made into hamburger, for
example, have not been exposed to illegal proteins and antibiotics
and other potential residues.
In the 1930s,
the Kentucky Legislature broadened the scope of the Feed Act to
include the monitoring of pet foods for nutrient content and safety,
probably because an estimated 25 percent of the canned dog food
sold in the United States was consumed by humans, perhaps as an
outcome of financial difficulties associated with the Great Depression.
The law, still in effect today, assures pet owners that the food
they feed to their pets contains what the label says it contains.
Zoos, too, can be assured of the composition of the feed for their
It was the appalling dairy situation in the 1890s that led to
revision of the Kentucky Pure Food Act of 1898, which mandated
that the Agricultural Experiment Station monitor foods for being
pure and unadulterated. The impetus for that law was that much
of what consumers bought was either adulterated or misrepresented,
and sometimes was even unhealthful. Milk was commonly fortified
to keep it from clabbering, cider was made from corn
and burnt sugar, maple syrup was adulterated with
glucose, oleomargarine was sold as butter, and flour sometimes
contained as much as 25 percent cornmeal. In addition, neutral
spirits were colored and flavored and sold as aged straight whiskey
(see related story). The Experiment Stations regulatory
services unit vigorously enforced the law so that the consumers
were infinitely better protected than ever before.
With the reorganization
of the Kentucky Board of Health in 1918, the pure food aspect
of the Experiment Station was transferred to that board, with
the Experiment Station still conducting the analytical, chemical,
and bacteriological examinations for the Board of Health. At the
same time, the Kentucky Legislature added to the Experiment Station
the role of monitoring the weighing and testing of milk and cream,
which was to ensure that farmers were paid accurately for the
amount of milk they sold to manufacturers. (Testing involved determining
the amount of butterfat in each lot of milk a farmer sold; milk
with a high butterfat content was worth more than an equal weight
with less butterfat.) In fulfilling this mission, the division
became responsible for licensing milk handlers, laboratories,
transfer stations, butterfat testers, and haulers.
group maintains integrity in the system from the farm to the processor.
We protect all parties involved in the milk production process,
said Chris Thompson, coordinator of the milk regulatory program.
home gardeners alike have great hopes when they plant seeds in
the ground. They hope that the seeds germinate into plants and
that the seeds have little or no weed seed accompanying them.
The Seed Inspection Program randomly selects seed to testfor
both farmers and gardenersto make sure that the label information
is correct concerning germination, pure seed, and estimated amount
of weed seed. The seed laboratory operated by the division also
checks to see how much chaff, dirt, and debris is in the seed,
because that affects the measurement when consumers buy the seed.
If the label isnt correct, the wholesaler or retailer will
need to make modifications on the label.
publish yearly a list of seed vendors whose samples weve
tested, and the results of those tests. Consumers can be assured
that what they purchasewhether it is for their corn field
or sweet corn patchis what the label indicates, said
David Buckingham, coordinator of the program.
more than 2,700 samples were taken from seed dealers and consumer
retail outlets, and the seeds were germinated for testing. Sometimes
the composition of the seed package is way off.
Weve had lawn mixes that indicate the package is 80
percent bluegrass and 20 percent fescue; upon analysis, weve
found only 40 percent bluegrass and 60 percent a mixture of other
kinds of seed. Weed seed content is also an occasional problem,
Extension agents are known for any one particular piece of advice
it might be this: Get a soil test.
Soil testschemical analyses of soilsprovide farmers
with precise information about how much nitrogen, potassium, and
phosphorus are available to their crops. If the soil is lower
in soil nutrients than is necessary to grow the best crop possible,
the farmer can elect to add nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorus.
Soil tests also provide information about soil pH and micro-nutrients
that are used by plants, including calcium, magnesium, and zinc.
test results take some of the guess work out of crop production.
It means that farmers can add to their fields the right blend
of fertilizer they need, said Frank Sikora, coordinator
of the soil testing program.
Soil testing laboratories in Lexington and at the Research and
Education Center at Princeton annually process about 50,000 samples
submitted from across the state.
The soil testing
laboratories also analyze animal waste that can be used to supply
nutrients to crops. This service is increasing as more and more
farmers realize animal manure can be an asset to the farm rather
than a liability.
foresees the consumer protection and service roles provided by
the division as becoming increasinglyimportant
Food safety and environmental protection especially are
becoming larger issues. Prevention of antibiotic residues and
other potential microbial and chemical contaminants that could
be introduced from feeds will be increasingly expected of us.
Maintaining consumer confidence in the wholesomeness and safety
of milk, meat, and eggs will be a vital part of our program,
public concern with the environmental impact of fertilizers will
mean that the division will become more involved with the interface
between fertilizers and soil testing. The seed program will increase
its monitoring of seed for genetic purity and bioengineering,
Long term, the division will continue to build on the established
programs and services but take on new activities associated with
food safety, environmental protection, and genetic engineering,
safety and environmental protection especially are becoming larger
issues. Prevention of antibiotic residues and other potential
microbial and chemical contaminants that could be introduced from
feeds will be increasingly expected of Regulatory Services.
the Dean of Agriculture Made Kentucky Whiskey Famous
When the National Pure Food Law enacted in 1906 was before
Congress, Representative A.O. Stanley of Kentucky (later
governor of Kentucky) gave an impassioned, colorful speech
describing how grain alcohol was made inappropriately into
a sort of whiskey by adding burnt sugar and a couple of
flavorings. Railing against such so-called whiskey, he said,
It is this sort, made out of this new alcohol, that
will eat the very vitals out of a coyote; it will make a
howling dervish out of an anchorite; it will make a rabbit
walk right up and spit in a bull dogs eye.
the act as passed provided an ambiguous definition of whiskey,
it was left to Theodore Roosevelts attorney general
to divine the true meaning of the term whiskey. Roosevelts
counsel followed the Kentucky definition of whiskeythe
real stuff and not just colored and flavored neutral spirits.
But because politics then as now can be quite fickle, at
best, the next president, William Howard Taft, reversed
course and allowed the colored and flavored alcohol to be
sold as whiskey. It is assumed that the manufacturers of
the colored and flavored stuffcommonly called the
rectifiershad made entreaties with Mr. Taft.
Kentuckians, being wily then, too, knew that federal jurisdiction
on the Pure Food Act did not pertain to intrastate commerce.
Precisely because of this, College of Agriculture Dean Melville
Amasa Scovell was the man to make the decision on what would
and what would not be whiskey in the state of Kentucky.
Scovell took a narrow-gauged definition that whiskey
manufactured and sold in Kentucky would be only that which
is the properly distilled spirit from the properly
prepared and properly fermented mash of sound grain... as
distinguished from commercial alcohol, refined alcohol and
neutral spirits. Scovells definition was subsequently
published in the Washington Times, and it is said that because
of Scovells definition, the quality of Kentucky whiskey
became world renowned.
Alas, Scovells definition became moot after 1920 with
the beginning of Prohibition provided by the 18th amendment;
nonetheless Kentuckys reputation for quality whiskey
remains unparalleled to this day.
of Melville A. Scovell