January 31, 2023
Washington DC -- The International Fresh Produce Association welcomed today’s announcement by FDA Commissioner Califf describing structural changes to the Foods Program at the Food and Drug Administration, and anxiously awaits additional details in late February, as indicated by the Commissioner. As the fresh produce industry works tirelessly to provide safe fresh fruits and vegetables that are critical components of a healthy lifestyle, we remain committed to engaging with the regulatory and public health community to implement sound, science-based food safety and nutrition policies. Progress on IFPA’s nutrition strategy, as well as changes in food safety regulations and scientific understanding of outbreaks necessitate a close working relationship with the FDA.
The Commissioner proposes to appoint a Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods, a recommendation that IFPA and the breadth of food system stakeholders, from consumer groups to Congress, have repeatedly called for over the past year. The Deputy Commissioner would be responsible for most programs that currently reside in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) and the Office of Food Policy and Response, including a new Center for Excellence in Nutrition which would house an Office of Critical Foods, as well as the Office of Integrated Food Safety System Partnerships.
Elements of compliance activities would also be consolidated and under the authority of the Deputy Commissioner. Currently, the Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response lacks direct oversight of these programs. The new Deputy Commissioner role would also have budget authority and decision rights, including the responsibility to establish priorities for the Human Foods Program. The plan also establishes a Human Foods Advisory Committee, which IFPA supports.
“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” says Jennifer McEntire, IFPAs 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.” As noted in the Reagan-Udall expert review requested by Commissioner Califf, the offices and centers have not always been aligned, leading to delays and inefficiencies.
“Continued stakeholder engagement is critical as details regarding the relationship between the Human Foods Program and ORA are refined, and to ensure the new structure sets the Agency up for success through changes in leadership,” notes McEntire. “It’s critical that the new structure eliminates silos and fosters a prevention-oriented culture.”
Following the December release of the Reagan-Udall report, the Commissioner announced that updates were expected in late January and late February. IFPA is committed to supporting FDA as the Agency rebuilds into a more effective, efficient, transparent, and collaborative organization that supports the continued delivery of safe, nutritious fresh produce to consumers.