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New commissioner says his time is going to food safety at FDA

New FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb claims food and tobacco issues are taking up a majority of his time. Maybe so, but there’s nothing on his public calendar to prove it.

Drug approvals and the regulation of medical devices usually take up more of the FDA commissioners’ time than the food side of the house. But Gottlieb says “the food center and issues related to tobacco” were dominating his schedule during his first months on the job.

Scott Gottlieb

Gottlieb spoke at a policy summit sponsored by the POLITICO news site. Keeping “big rulemakings on track” for menu labeling and the Nutrition Facts panel are taking up his time, Gottlieb said.

That may be true. However, since Gottlieb assumed office on May 11, his public calendar tells a different story. His “significant meetings” with persons outside the federal government are pretty typical for whoever is FDA commissioner.

Gottlieb, a Mount Sinai School of Medicine-trained physician, took his first meetings with outsiders on June 7 and 9, one involving “Celebrate Healthy Women” and the other the annual spring event of the FDA Alumni Association.

On July 10, he met with individuals from industry and academia on “Evaluating the Impact of Abuse-Deterrent Opioid Formulations in Postmarket Setting.” Two days later, the commissioner met with the “GOP Doctors Caucus” on how it might be helpful to FDA.

“The Hatch-Waxman Amendments: Ensuring a Balance Between Innovation and Access” were Gottlieb’s topic on July 18 before various individuals from the pharmaceutical industry, trade associations, consulting firms, and academia.

The next day, he cut a podcast about opioids with Steven Morrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). On July 20, he addressed students from Washington Internships for Students in Engineering (WISE) about the role of the FDA commissioner.

Gottlieb met with a delegation interested in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation or JDRF on July 25 and on Aug. 2 he participated in the annual student science poster exhibit for the Center for Devices and Radiological Health’s Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories.

On Aug. 17 the commissioner met with representatives of the Reagan Udall Foundation of the FDA on Aug. 17, which is a 501(c)3 entity created by Congress to advance regulatory science.

Then Gottlieb headed out for a road trip.

On Aug 21, he addressed FDA’s mission to an “All Hands Meeting” of the National Center for Toxicological Research and Arkansas Regional Laboratories in Jefferson, AR. He moved on to Aurora, CO, on Aug. 22 for a BioScience Roundtable organized by the Colorado BioScience Association and the University of Colorado.

Gottlieb is no stranger to FDA, having served a deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs during the George H. Bush administration. He recalls helping manage the agency response to the 2006 E. coli O157: H7 outbreak in California-grown spinach.

The day Gottlieb took command of FDA was the Dr. Stephen M. Ostroff’s last day as acting commissioner. May 11 found Ostroff speaking at the Food Safety Summit in Chicago.

After resuming his regular job at deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, Ostroff continues FDA’s outreach to the food. In May, he attended the FoodBev Forum on food safety in Savannah, GA and took a congressional meeting on seafood import inspections.

Ostroff’s schedule continued into the summer with meetings with the Grocery Manufacturers of America on the Food Safety Modernization Act; Archer Daniels Midland Co. on wild flavors and specialty ingredients; and the American Feed Industry Association meeting on FSMA; all by mid-June.

He also met with the Safe Food Coalition — made up of mostly non-government organizations — on June 20 about the FSMA. On Aug. 1, the deputy commissioner met with a delegation from the National Association of Convenience Stores over menu labeling.

Later in August, he took meetings Ocean Spray about food safety and the American Frozen Foods Institute about the FSMA.

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