Administrative law grants broad investigatory and inspection powers to regulatory agencies (Pagnattaro et al., 2016). Periodic inspection is a way of monitoring ongoing activities under the jurisdiction of a particular agency. Such inspections determine whether cars and trains can move, planes can fly, agricultural products can meet quality standards, newspapers can obtain second-class mailing privileges, and so forth. Similar procedures are used to prevent the distribution of unsafe foods and drugs, to prohibit the entry of diseased plants and animals into the country, or to suspend the license of a pilot pending a disciplinary hearing.
In a variety of industries and businesses, government inspectors operate on the premises. For example, when a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspector finds botulism in soup, the manufacturer will withdraw the product from grocers’ and manufacturers’ shelves and destroy all cans—because of the unstated but understood FDA threat to prosecute through the U.S. Department of Justice (Gellhorn and Levin, 1997).
Inspections constitute a primary tool of administrative supervision and control. For instance, the inspectors for the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation visit banks to examine bank records. A housing official may inspect buildings to determine compliance with building codes. In some instances, inspection takes place occasionally, such as when ensuring compliance with building codes. In other instances, inspection is continuous, as in food inspection. Both forms of inspection, sporadic and continuous, also exert pressure for self-regulation and contribute to the maintenance of internal controls specified by the law. At times, these inspections may also lead to proposals for corrective legislation governing regulatory standards.