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FDA Names Its First Deputy Commissioner for Evolving Human Foods Program

Aug. 23, 2023
James Jones will leave EPA to become the single head of all FDA food programs, as that department continues to develop.

The FDA today (Aug. 23) named James Jones, currently an employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as the first Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods. He will start on Sept. 24. His lack of food industry experience apparently is made up by his knowledge in organizing and overseeing sprawling government programs, and that’s the first order of business at an evolving FDA.

“The new executive position will lead the charge in setting and advancing priorities for a proposed unified Human Foods Program (HFP),” the FDA said in its announcement.

The FDA would not say how long Jones had been at EPA nor what his current title there is. While coming from that other agency, Jones has some food credentials. “His work [at EPA] has focused on lessening the impact that chemicals and pollution have on the U.S. food supply,” the FDA announcement continued.

“Notably, Jones was an integral member of the Reagan-Udall Foundation’s Independent Expert Panel for Foods, which submitted a report on the operational evaluation of the FDA’s Human Foods Program to the agency in December 2022. This makes him intimately knowledgeable of the agency’s challenges and opportunities and the panel’s recommendations that the FDA is adopting in its proposal for a unified HFP.”

After the agency took a beating on several fronts last year, Commissioner Robert Califf promised a major overhaul of the food side of FDA. The two key points were creation of a single Human Foods Program (HFP) where there currently are separate programs for food safety, nutrition and regulatory affairs; and the appointment of a single deputy commissioner to oversee that new HFP, where there currently are two. Jones is that person. He will report directly to Califf.

Three top-ranking FDA officials resigned this year, including both deputy commissioners over the separate food programs. Many details of the new HFP are still being ironed out.

Two food trade associations quickly announced their support for Jones.

“Jones embodies the management qualifications the industry and stakeholders have been asking for to ensure FDA can properly deliver on its mission of protecting consumer health and safety,” wrote Consumer Brands Assn.

International Dairy Foods Assn. added. “Jim’s vast government leadership experience uniquely qualifies him to navigate the transformational change FDA needs to elevate, unify and shape the human foods program.”

The FDA announcement continued, “At the EPA, he was a principal architect of the 2016 overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act, the first update of that statute in more than 40 years. He was also responsible for decision-making related to the regulation of pesticides and commercial chemicals. He also led several national sustainability programs, including the EPA’s Environmental Preferable Purchasing Program and the Presidential Green Chemistry Awards Challenge. He is a seasoned leader whose experience managing change initiatives within the federal government will be invaluable as we continue to build a unified HFP.”

In the role of Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods, “He will exercise decision-making authority over all HFP entities when the reorganization is in effect, including related Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) activities,” the FDA announcement continued.

“He will provide executive leadership over the entire program as well as over resource allocation, risk-prioritization strategy, policy, and major response activities involving human foods. The leadership for Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and Office of Food Policy and Response will report to Jones until the proposed HFP reorganization is implemented.”

Jones holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Maryland.

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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