February 1, 2023

FDA redesigning Human Foods Program as part of structural changes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is redesigning its Human Foods Program and conducting a national search for its leader in an effort to unify food safety operations.

In response to an external evaluation and days after the resignation of the FDA’s top food official, the federal agency announced sweeping changes to counter criticism of organizational structure in a report from the Reagan-Udall Foundation, a group tied to but separate from the FDA, which called for an overhaul of the agency’s leadership and culture.

Under the new plan, the functions of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the Office of Food Policy and Response and certain functions of the Office of Regulatory Affairs will be combined into the Human Foods Program. The program’s deputy commissioner will report directly to FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf.

The restructuring comes in the wake of last year’s nationwide infant formula shortage and the Jan. 25 resignation of Frank Yiannas, who had served as the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response since 2018.

“The findings and recommendations from these reviews identified issues surrounding culture, structure, resources, and authorities,” Califf said in a Jan. 31 news release. “They also noted several areas of need, including modernizing data systems, providing more resources and authorities, improving emergency response systems, and building a more robust regulatory program.”

The Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods will have decision-making authority over policy, strategy, and regulatory activities as well as resource allocation and risk-prioritization, Califf said in the statement.

Other restructuring elements include the creation of a Center for Excellence in Nutrition that prioritizes agency efforts to offer healthier food choices and the establishment of an Office of Integrated Food Safety System Partnerships that will focus on coordinating food safety response activities with state and local agencies.

“We know that we cannot be everywhere, at all times, and our relationships with our state and local regulatory partners will be more important than ever going forward,” Califf said.

The FDA will also establish a Human Foods Advisory Committee made up of external experts and strengthen its information technology and analytical capabilities to improve workflow.

While the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine will continue to operate as a stand-alone center, relevant food safety activities will be coordinated between the center director and Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods.

“Consumers can be confident in the safety of the food they eat each day in part thanks to the work of the FDA’s dedicated workforce,” Califf said. “Our ability to continue our work means consistently evolving and adapting with the constantly changing, complex industries we regulate and the emergence of new technologies.”

A program restructuring PDF is available online.

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