Reactions to FDA reorganization vary
|Groups with an interest in the reorganization of the Food and Drug Administration’s Human Foods Program and Office of Regulatory Affairs announced today had varying reactions to the development.|
The Alliance for a Stronger FDA, a coalition of 150 consumer, patient groups and industry advocating for Food and Drug Administration appropriations “applauded the creation of an FDA deputy commissioner for human foods who will be accountable for integrated and effective spending of taxpayer dollars on food safety and nutrition programs.”
|But Steven Grossman, executive director of the alliance, added, “The creation of a deputy commissioner for human foods is not just about the arrangement of boxes on an organizational chart.”|
“With five different units within FDA using food and nutrition funding, resources cannot be spent effectively and with appropriate intentionality, unless there is an empowered decision-maker in charge. The responsibilities placed on FDA and the growth of challenges in food safety have increased far faster than funding. Significant new monies are needed to assure that the food supply is safe and perceived to be so, and nutritional information is widely available and supported by science.”
|Jerold Mande, CEO of Nourish Science, an adjunct professor of nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and a visiting fellow at the Tufts Tisch College of Civic Life, congratulated FDA Commissioner Robert Califf “for making a serious effort to address FDA’s many food failings.”|
But Mande added, “Unfortunately, they failed to use this hard work to produce a plan that solves the fundamental problems. The No. 1 problem is inadequate resources including budget. This plan doesn’t propose them.”
“No. 2 we must make at least an equal effort to combat acute and chronic food illness. This plan will take nutrition, which is currently listed equally with food safety, and relegate it to what seems to be a small, unfunded, and separate center.
“FDA was created to ensure processed food doesn’t make us sick, acutely or chronically. This plan will do virtually nothing to reduce the 1,600 deaths a day due to chronic food illness. It’s time to move the F in FDA to a ‘Department of Food and Agriculture’ that would elevate food and nutrition policy to the cabinet level where it needs to be.”
|“These changes are long overdue and should help to better protect consumers,” said Thomas Gremillion, director of food policy at Consumer Federation of America.|
“The absence of a clear, overarching leader for the FDA foods program has undermined the agency’s organizational culture, its communications, its ability to attract resources, its partnerships with state and local regulators, and its responsiveness in a crisis.
“By giving one leader the power to set priorities within the foods program, and to direct resources accordingly, this reorganization will help the agency to break down the silos and hopefully, convince Congress to provide the funding needed to ensure a safe and healthy food supply for all Americans.
“The proposed reorganization responds to many of the concerns raised by CFA in testimony delivered before the Reagan-Udall Foundation’s expert panel last year. In particular, the new Office of Integrated Food Safety System Partnerships, should foster better coordination with state agencies, who often conduct food safety inspections on behalf of the FDA.
“The creation of a new center focused solely on nutrition is also very important, given the huge economic toll that diet-related disease is taking on U.S. consumers. The reorganization plan is not perfect.
“For example, the Center for Veterinary Medicine is still separate from the foods program, even though its regulation of areas like animal antibiotics greatly impacts the food system. Overall, however, this is an important first step towards greater accountability, transparency, and efficacy at FDA,” Gremillion said.
|Nancy Brown, chief executive of the American Heart Association, said, “We appreciate Commissioner Califf’s efforts to address the Reagan-Udall Foundation Independent Expert Panel’s recommendations to improve the FDA Human Foods Program.”|
“As an organization committed to reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease on our nation’s families and communities, we recognize the critical role that diet plays in heart, brain and overall health. We are pleased the FDA’s proposed new structure also recognizes — and elevates — nutrition’s role by creating a new Center for Excellence in Nutrition.
“We hope this new structure will help the FDA build on its previous work, and we encourage the agency to pursue bold, new policies that help consumers make healthier choices and improve the food supply — actions such as creating a comprehensive front-of-pack labeling system to help consumers easily identify healthier foods, and long-term sodium reduction targets for the food industry to further lower the amount of sodium in the food supply,” Brown said.
|Joseph Scimeca, the senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs for the International Dairy Foods Association, said, “The proposed vision is thoughtful and seeks to consider the many years of feedback from industry stakeholders, including IDFA, as well as the recommendations made late last year by the Reagan-Udall Foundation, to ensure FDA is prioritizing the ‘F’ in FDA and putting first the safety of food for consumers and the concerns of food makers in being able to innovate to meet consumer needs.”|
“We strongly encourage the FDA to continue to seek and accept feedback from key stakeholders as they advance the process to implement the proposed changes in the vision. FDA must prioritize collaboration, transparency, and accountability throughout the process to improve the Human Foods Program.”
But Simeca added, “However, the plan released today does not address in any detail how FDA plans to solve the bureaucratic, opaque process to update the hundreds of food and beverage standards that remain woefully outdated and hinder innovation.”
“As FDA considers next steps in this plan, we strongly encourage greater focus on creating a culture that values transparency, a system of clear accountability, and collaboration with food manufacturers to ensure two-way feedback in updating manufacturing processes that are more responsive to consumer demands.
“We are pleased to see the FDA propose to establish a deputy commissioner for the Human Foods Program that includes the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and portions of the Office of Regulatory Affairs. This single act, if implemented to ensure collaboration and accountability to FDA stakeholders, will begin to advance positive change at FDA provided the appointed commissioner possesses the necessary leadership and food safety qualifications.
“We are disappointed, however, that this new remit will not include the Center for Veterinary Medicine, where there is significant overlap with human health. Details will matter in how the new deputy commissioner manages the reorganized Human Foods Program and the proof will be in the pudding,” Simeca said.
The National Milk Producers Federation tweeted, “Here’s to hoping the new Human Foods chief … devotes the time and energy to enforce proper use of dairy terms on labeling. Consumers have waited too long.”
|Donna Garren, executive vice president of science and policy with the American Frozen Food Institute called the establishment of a deputy commissioner for foods “a positive step.”|
But Garren said the deputy commissioner should have “direct authority” over all components of FDA’s human and animal foods program, including the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Center for Veterinary Medicine and the food-related components of the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA),” with “a modern risk-based safety approach” and ”stakeholder collaboration, including with consumers and the regulated community.”
|“The changes proposed today represent significant steps in the right direction. The vision laid out by the commissioner is likely to streamline decision-making within the agency,” said Jennifer McEntire, the International Fresh Produce Association chief food safety and regulatory officer.|
“The parts of FDA that produce industry members interact most closely with — inspectors, regulatory labs, and import operations, will still be managed separately within the Office of Regulatory Affairs, necessitating strong, collaborative leadership between the new deputy commissioner and ORA.”
|De Ann Davis, the senior vice president for science at Western Growers, which represents produce growers in the western states, said, “We are encouraged by the announced changes, and believe that the addition of a deputy commissioner; the creation of an Office of Integrated Food Safety Systems Partnership; a Center for Excellence in Nutrition and a Human Foods Advisory Committee will help support a prevention agenda.”|
“As the agency considers its next steps, we draw their attention to these critical needs for produce safety:
▪ Increased state support and authority to assure a strong, sustained prevention agenda for farms;
▪ Realized commitment to all the pillars of the agency’s stated New Era of Smarter Food Safety;
▪ Investment in approaches that will rapidly improve a domestic grower’s ability to build upon their food safety prevention strategies, including improvement of the agency’s focus on applied research, outreach, transparency, technical assistance and education.”