Strange Bedfellows: ‘FDA Foods Coalition’ Launches to Support FDA Redesign

Oct. 26, 2023
Consumer advocates, food industry representatives, public health groups and regulators aim to push for an increased focus on prevention and improving governance at the FDA.

A broad and odd collection of groups today announced the launch of the FDA Foods Coalition, meant to support and lobby the food safety agency as it develops its planned Human Foods Program.

From the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to Consumer Brands Assn. and Consumer Reports to the International Dairy Foods Assn. (IDFA), the group will “advocate for a modernized, effective foods program at the … FDA focused on preventing foodborne illness outbreaks and other food safety risks and decreasing diet-related chronic diseases.”

Made up of consumer advocates, food industry representatives, public health groups and state and local regulators (the full list of members is at the end of this report), “the coalition will educate policymakers, media and the public about improving the governance of the FDA Human Foods Program.

“The coalition is supportive of FDA’s proposed redesign of the Human Foods Program and looks forward to working with Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., and new Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods Jim Jones to implement these changes and facilitate greater transparency, accountability and meaningful stakeholder engagement,” today’s announcement said.

Many of the organizations in the diverse coalition began working together following FDA’s delayed response to the infant formula crisis of early 2022 and called on Commissioner Califf to appoint a leader empowered to address the fundamental problems plaguing the agency’s foods program. In response, Califf ordered an external review of the program by the Reagan Udall Foundation, which concluded that the FDA’s culture, organizational structure and governance model undermine its effectiveness.

Early this year, Califf announced plans to adopt many of those recommendations and recently appointed Jones as deputy commissioner in charge of the Human Foods Program.

“Commissioner Califf has proposed a redesign that will allow the Human Foods Program to carry out its critical mission and make the agency more accountable and transparent,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports and co-chair of the FDA Foods Coalition. “Our coalition supports these changes and believes the implementation of them is critically important to all of the FDA’s food system stakeholders.”

Roberta Wagner, senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs at IDFA and formerly of Consumer Brands Assn., is the other co-chair. She added, “The coalition will continue to advocate that FDA shift away from its traditional reactionary model to a modernized, prevention-oriented oversight model that aligns with industry’s immense efforts to ensure continual improvement and prevent problems from occurring.”

In addition to Consumer Reports, IDFA, Consumer Brands and CSPI, the coalition includes the American Frozen Food Institute, Assn. of Food and Drug Officials, Consumer Federation of America, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group, International Fresh Produce Assn., Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Assn., STOP Foodborne Illness and Western Growers. The coalition is reaching out to other stakeholders that align with this mission.

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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