More money and reorganization are often offered as solutions when deficiencies turn up in government. 

This time, food regulation by the Food and Drug Administration has come up short. In a lengthy report released on April 8, Politico depicted FDA’s food regulation and outbreak response as slow and inept.

On Monday came the broadest response to that report as numerous consumer, industry, and government groups called for strengthened leadership and accountability for FDA’s food safety and nutrition programs.

The groups have signed a joint letter to  FDA Commissioner Robert Califf addressing FDA food regulation’s organizational, governance, and performance issues.

The letter says the groups “are troubled by the recent Politico reporting of serious problems in the FDA food program’s organizational structure, governance, and performance. Many throughout the consumer community and food industry have observed such problems and are concerned about their impact on the well-being of both consumers and industry. 

We depend on the FDA to perform its regulatory role effectively, efficiently, and transparently. And every American wants to have confidence in FDA’s ability to do that. We fear that confidence is in jeopardy,” it continues.

The letter suggests the FDA Commissioner resolve the deficiencies.

“We call on you to unify the FDA food program under a deputy commissioner for foods, with accountability to the commissioner and direct line authority over CFSAN, CVM, and the food-related components and operations of ORA. This should be done urgently, and the person appointed should have relevant and appropriate food credentials. In addition to bringing focused leadership and accountability to the FDA’s food program internally, a unified structure and a full-time senior leader will strengthen its standing externally and its ability to effectively dialogue with its many stakeholders.”

And the letter addresses the money issue as well.

“We agree that the FDA’s food program may need significantly increased funding to fulfill its mission. Congress has provided considerable funding for FDA food programs, especially for the implementation of FSMA, stretching back to FY 2015. 

“Since that time, transparent accounting of FDA expenditures within the food arena would help us assist the agency is bolstering its funding,” the letter continues. “We will continue working with the FDA, the administration, and Congress to see that the funds FDA needs are requested and appropriated.”

Groups signing on to the letter included:

Consumer/Public Health Groups

Antibiotic Resistance Action Center, George Washington University Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Food Safety
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Consumer Federation of America
Consumer Reports
Defend Our Health
Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental Working Group
Friends of the Earth
Healthy Babies Bright Futures
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future Lexicon of Sustainability
Natural Resources Defense Council
STOP Foodborne Illness

Industry Groups

American Bakers Association
American Frozen Food Institute
Consumer Brands Association
Corn Refiners Association
Council for Responsible Nutrition
FMI – The Food Industry Association
Global Cold Chain Alliance
International Fresh Produce Association
National Association of Chemical Distributors National Confectioners Association
National Fisheries Institute
North American Millers’ Association Western Growers

State Government Representatives
Association of Food and Drug Officials

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