A coalition of consumer and industry groups is seeking a meeting with a Senate committee regarding the head of the FDA and his response to a recent report calling for a reorganization of the agency.

The coalition is made up of the Consumer Brands Association, Consumer Reports, STOP Foodborne Illness, the International Fresh Produce Association, the Environmental Working Group, and the American Frozen Food Institute. 

The group sent a letter to members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions this week regarding FDA Commissioner Robert Califf’s response to a report that he commissioned. The report from the Reagan-Udall Foundation, released in December 2022, calls for the reinstatement of a deputy commissioner position within the FDA. The foundation also said it is imperative for the deputy commissioner to have direct authority over operations on the food side of the FDA, including food safety efforts.    

“We believe establishing an empowered Deputy Commission position with direct line authority over all components of FDA’s human and animal foods program is foundational to the agency’s success,” the coalition letter to the Senate committee states.

“We are concerned that Commissioner’s plan, as announced and described in his March 9 letter, will fall short of what is needed to protect consumers and facilitate industry collaboration and innovation. While we largely share Dr. Califf’s vision, we are concerned that his proposed changes to internal documents will not go far enough to eliminate the communication and organizational failures that contributed to the infant formula crisis or address the cultural challenges that continue to plague the FDA. 

“We request a meeting with you and your team to share our ideas in support of the FDA’s public health mission. We appreciate your attention to this.” 

The coalition points to the foundation’s report — commissioned in the summer of 2022 by Califf himself following a breakdown in communications within the FDA in relation to the infant formula crisis — that repeatedly calls for a reorganization of the agency. It notes that Califf has said that he wants a deputy commissioner of food to handle all aspects of the food program and its resources, including field operations. However, the coalition also points out that the details of Califf’s plan for the deputy commissioner do not give the position the authority it needs to carry out that mission.

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