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The Washington Post’s Q&A with FDA, Reduced to 250 Words

Jan. 11, 2023
The Post’s editorial board talked to Robert Califf and Janet Woodcock about changes coming to the food safety agency.

The Washington Post editorial board got FDA’s two top officers—Commissioner Robert Califf and Principal Deputy Commissioner Janet Woodcock—to sit down for a food safety-focused Q&A on Jan. 6. They talked about last year’s baby formula crisis, culture and morale within the agency and the suggested restructuring of the FDA.

We think the biggest bullet point: Califf said they’re “weeks away” from announcing some kind of restructuring of FDA. You might want to read the unabridged version yourself — all 2000 words of it (might require a subscription) — but we’ve reduced it to about 250 here, with just a little interpretation:

WaPo: Should the FDA be broken up so there is a separate human food agency?

(After 400 words) Califf & Woodcock: That’s not our call to make.

WaPo: If we don’t break up the FDA, then how can we ensure there is true reform in the human food division after years of problems?

(After 1000 words) Califf: “We are coalescing on a plan.” “We are a couple of weeks away from announcing [a proposed new] architecture.”

“Almost 100 percent of what’s in the [Reagan-Udall Foundation] report is quite good. Actually operationalizing it is a different kind of work that takes into account a lot of ‘sausage making.’ ”

“… [about] the report’s reference to ‘constant turmoil.’ The FDA as a whole is always in constant turmoil because we’re making thousands of decisions a month that affect a lot of people. A high proportion of those decisions make somebody unhappy, and it’s stressful.”

WaPo: What else needs to be done to modernize food safety? / Most Americans probably think you already have access to all the data you need.

Califf: “When there’s a shortage [of baby formula, for example], we have to go begging for data. Legally, we can’t get the data unless they agree to give it to us. Similarly, with the states [state food safety inspections and programs], if we give them data and they make it publicly available, we’re liable.”

OUR SUMMARY: No great revelations, but they seem to be working on it. And they did promise “We are a couple of weeks away from announcing [a proposed new] architecture.”

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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