Troubled by the serious problems highlighted by Politico’s recent reporting on the FDA food program’s organizational structure, governance and performance, the organizations have taken a stand to demand positive change in the agency’s operations. As such, the groups have written a letter to FDA’s commissioner of food and drugs, Robert Califf, to urge structural, governance and performance changes that require more transparency and robust engagement with industry, consumer groups, state associations and other stakeholders.
“All of us depend on the FDA to perform its regulatory role effectively efficiently, and transparently,” the groups noted in the letter. “And every American wants to have confidence in FDA’s ability to do that. We fear public confidence is in jeopardy.”
The letter was written on behalf of organizations that support the food and safety and nutrition mission of the FDA; however, they also represent consumers, the food industry and state food regulators.
The groups made clear that issues like the lack of a fully empowered and expert leader affect all aspects of the FDA’s food program in a negative way. According to the organizations, these issues are having an adverse impact on the continuing implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and execution of The New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint.
Both of these key initiatives depend on all major food program units – the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) – working together seamlessly with their state partners and with a common strategic direction, clear priorities, sound resource management and internal accountability, the organizations maintain.
“Our industry serves consumers best and is at its most innovative with a proactive FDA that is structured and funded for success,” said Roberta Wagner, VP of regulatory and technical affairs at Arlington, Va.-based Consumer Brands. “We look forward to continuing our work with the agency on its efforts to tackle the food issues of today.”
In the letter, the groups outlined specific steps that the agency should take to ensure the successful delivery of its critical food mission on behalf of public health and to elevate public confidence. These include the immediate unifying of the FDA’s food program under a deputy commissioner for foods, who would serve as a full-time senior leader tasked with boosting internal accountability and external two-way communication with stakeholders. The organizations also asked for transparent accounting of FDA expenditures on FSMA implementation to help project future funding needs.
Along with Consumer Brands and FMI, signatories to the letter were Antibiotic Resistance Action Center, George Washington University, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Defend Our Health, Earthjustice, the Environmental Defense Fund, the 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, American Bakers Association, American Frozen Food Institute, Corn Refiners Association, Council for Responsible Nutrition, 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, and the Association of Food and Drug Officials.