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Editor’s Plate: Is a New FDA in the Offing?

Feb. 16, 2023
We'll see if the promised creation of the Human Foods Program solves the agency's problems.

FDA is going to blow up the food side of the agency and create something brand new and powerful, the Human Foods Program! It will be capable of solving all the thorny issues on the horizon – such as cultured meat, CBD and THC in foods, heavy metals in baby foods – and making sure no American ever gets ill from food again.

Really? We’ll see.

That’s sarcasm, yes, but in a backhanded way it acknowledges the daunting task of any agency that tries to regulate foods in these modern times. While I often use the phrase “I feel like I’ve written this before,” I don’t think that applies to the current plan to reorganize the FDA. While there’s a lot to be fleshed out, the Human Foods Program could be, if not THE solution, at least a huge step in the right direction.

I’ve been writing about FDA for 30 years, and there have always been criticisms of the agency. Problems big and small have come and gone, but I don’t recall this much reaction or promised action in the past.

With good reason, of course. 2022 began with the incendiary Politico expose of the agency. Last summer, the FDA was in everyone's crosshairs, including those of Congress, when warnings about unsanitary conditions at Abbott Nutrition's Sturgis, Mich., infant formula plant went unheeded. You know what happened next. Then came the Reagan-Udall Foundation report, requested by the FDA commissioner himself.

In the FDA's late-January announcement, Commissioner Robert Califf stopped short of creating a separate food safety agency – something that has been suggested many times in the past, and something he has neither the power nor the desire to do. Nor will he be combining the food safety responsibilities of FDA with those of USDA, another logical idea. But he is suggesting a new “program,” which sounds a little weak, but that’s probably how federal agency guys talk.

Most importantly, he’s promising a single head of food safety, a deputy commissioner reportable only to him. The lack of a singular food safety leader is a huge liability under the current structure.

“It may not be quite the single, national food agency that is so often advocated, but if the vision for the FDA’s ‘reimagined’ Human Foods Program pans out the way it is proposed, this agency will, at least, be a step closer to unification,” said David Acheson, a former FDA associate commissioner for foods and founder and CEO of consultancy The Acheson Group.

At this point, the Human Foods Program is just a vision, a promise. Let's all hope it develops into the solution everyone wants and the country needs.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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