Consumer groups, industry tell FDA Commissioner change is needed

More money and reorganization are often offered as solutions when deficiencies turn up in government. 

This time, food regulation by the Food and Drug Administration has come up short. In a lengthy report released on April 8, Politico depicted FDA’s food regulation and outbreak response as slow and inept.

On Monday came the broadest response to that report as numerous consumer, industry, and government groups called for strengthened leadership and accountability for FDA’s food safety and nutrition programs.

The groups have signed a joint letter to  FDA Commissioner Robert Califf addressing FDA food regulation’s organizational, governance, and performance issues.

The letter says the groups “are troubled by the recent Politico reporting of serious problems in the FDA food program’s organizational structure, governance, and performance. Many throughout the consumer community and food industry have observed such problems and are concerned about their impact on the well-being of both consumers and industry. 

We depend on the FDA to perform its regulatory role effectively, efficiently, and transparently. And every American wants to have confidence in FDA’s ability to do that. We fear that confidence is in jeopardy,” it continues.

The letter suggests the FDA Commissioner resolve the deficiencies.

“We call on you to unify the FDA food program under a deputy commissioner for foods, with accountability to the commissioner and direct line authority over CFSAN, CVM, and the food-related components and operations of ORA. This should be done urgently, and the person appointed should have relevant and appropriate food credentials. In addition to bringing focused leadership and accountability to the FDA’s food program internally, a unified structure and a full-time senior leader will strengthen its standing externally and its ability to effectively dialogue with its many stakeholders.”

And the letter addresses the money issue as well.

“We agree that the FDA’s food program may need significantly increased funding to fulfill its mission. Congress has provided considerable funding for FDA food programs, especially for the implementation of FSMA, stretching back to FY 2015. 

“Since that time, transparent accounting of FDA expenditures within the food arena would help us assist the agency is bolstering its funding,” the letter continues. “We will continue working with the FDA, the administration, and Congress to see that the funds FDA needs are requested and appropriated.”

Groups signing on to the letter included:

Consumer/Public Health Groups

  • Antibiotic Resistance Action Center, George Washington University Center for Biological Diversity
  • Center for Food Safety
  • Center for Science in the Public Interest
  • Consumer Federation of America Consumer Reports
  • Defend Our Health
  • Earthjustice
  • Environmental Defense Fund Environmental Working Group
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Healthy Babies Bright Futures
  • Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future Lexicon of Sustainability
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • STOP Foodborne Illness

Industry Groups

  • American Bakers Association
  • American Frozen Food Institute
  • Corn Refiners Association
  • Council for Responsible Nutrition
  • FMI – The Food Industry Association
  • Global Cold Chain Alliance
  • International Fresh Produce Association, National Association of Chemical Distributors, National Confectioners Association
  • National Fisheries Institute
  • North American Millers’ Association Western Growers

State Government Representatives

  • Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO)

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