Califf: Hiring deputy only beginning of FDA reorganization
The Food and Drug Administration will post the job of deputy commissioner for food soon, but that will only be the beginning of reorganizing the Human Foods side of the agency, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said Friday.
Califf announced recently that FDA would consolidate most of its Human Foods functions under a deputy commissioner for food.
In an online chat sponsored by the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, Califf said, ”We can only propose. We have a lot of bosses and a lot of collaborators, including all the employees and the unions that represent them. We can only propose ideas now for then discussion about how we how we make final decisions and implement.”
“It seems like everybody is interested in what is being done here,” Califf said. ”Our proposals are nowhere near the final word.”
But he added that with reports on the infant formula problem and the Reagan-Udall report on the Human Foods Division, “we have all the information we need to propose very significant changes” to respond to criticism.
Califf added that food safety is not the only issue, it is the “whole Human Foods” program. Califf emphasized that he is concerned about human life expectancy and believes the agency has to “deal with it more effectively.”
On the issue of not bringing the food inspectors into the Human Foods division, Califf said that people inside the agency understand that would be difficult. He also pointed out that states conduct far more food inspections than FDA and said there are questions about how information from the inspections is transmitted.
Califf said that issues such as climate change and the supply chain “have been brewing for many years.”
The only commodity that had no supply chain disruptions, he said, “unfortunately” was tobacco. Califf noted that 500,000 people are dying each year from smoking and that he is “not seeing much” from the industry to develop smoking cessation products.
Asked what he is proud of and what keeps him awake at night, Califf said he is “proud we are taking on hard issues” and that he didn’t come back to the agency at the age of 71 “to kick the can down the road.”
He said there needs to be “a new regulatory pathway” for the more than 30 derivatives that come from cannabis and that he hopes ”to accelerate the reduction in combustible tobacco use.”
With his history as an emergency room doctor, Califf said, “Nothing keeps me awake at night.”