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A coalition of organizations and advocates - including FMI-The Food Industry Association, the National Grocers Association (NGA), and the Consumer Brands Association (CBA) - is asking Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf "to make a commitment to support a new leader to oversee its food program in light of the Reagan Udall Foundation’s report detailing longstanding problems that have undermined the agency’s effectiveness.

"The groups urged Commissioner Califf to name an empowered deputy commissioner to manage the program, one of the options recommended in the Foundation’s report to strengthen leadership and accountability at the FDA.  The coalition letter calls on Commissioner Califf to appoint a food safety expert by February to serve in that role on an acting basis while the agency works through how best to implement the empowered deputy commissioner model."

An excerpt from the letter:

"We believe the Expert Panel report the Foundation issued on December 6 accurately captures the problems involving the structure, leadership, culture, transparency, and accountability within the FDA’s foods program, all of which are preventing the agency from doing its best to protect consumers and enable industry to innovate. We also appreciate the Expert Panel’s conclusion that having a single leader who is empowered and accountable for the success of the foods program is central to its success; it is noteworthy that all of the panel’s options for structural change include this critical element. We also agree with the Expert Panel’s recognition that the inspection and compliance functions of the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) needs to be integrated with the policymakers that reside in the FDA’s Centers.

"We continue to believe that the option of placing an empowered food expert in a deputy commissioner position with line authority over all elements of a unified Human and Animal Foods Program is the critical element of a successful organizational and leadership structure."