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Call for changes in FDA operations driven by food industry leaders

In a letter to FDA’s commissioner of food and drugs, food industry groups outlined specific steps that the agency should take to ensure food safety and elevate public confidence.

Many sectors rely on the FDA to perform its regulatory role effectively, efficiently, and transparently. Image credit: RitaE | Pixabay

Many sectors rely on the FDA to perform its regulatory role effectively, efficiently, and transparently. Image credit: RitaE | Pixabay

The Consumer Brands Association has joined a coalition of nearly 30 consumer and food industry organisations, among them FMI – The Food Industry Association, to call for constructive changes to the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) food program. Troubled by the serious problems highlighted by Politico’s recent reporting on the FDA food program’s organisational structure, governance and performance, the organisations 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, 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 organisations 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 it clear that issues like the lack of fully empowered and expert leaders affects all aspects of the FDA’s food program in a negative way. According to the organisations, these issues are having an adverse impact on the continuing implementation of the Food Safety Modernisation 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 Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), the Centre 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 organisations 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 organisations 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 Defence Fund, the Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Healthy Babies Bright Futures, John Hopkins Centre for a Livable Future, Lexicon of Sustainability, Natural Resources Defence 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.