— OPINION —
As an advocate for comprehensive organizational change in FDA’s Food Program, I give Commissioner Califf and his team the credit they are due for the changes he announced this week. I still think that food inspectors should report to the Food Program leader, but the Commissioner’s plan moves strongly in the direction of a unified structure that can operate with much greater efficiency and unity of purpose than the current structure.
As I read the proposal, it effectively dismantles the old version of the Office of Regulatory Affairs by taking out the state partnership office, the field food labs, and most of ORA’s headquarters staff working on food and moving them into a reshuffled version of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition under a single accountable leader. These are big changes, for which the commissioner deserves credit. Overall, it looks to me like a new organization with a chance for a fresh start, albeit with huge implementation challenges.
My largest outstanding question is whether the new Deputy Commissioner will ultimately have the formal and practical authority within FDA to fully implement the reorganization plan, in both headquarters and the field, and to lead the necessary shift to a food safety culture of transparent engagement and collaboration, laser focused on risk-based prevention of foodborne illness. The new structure makes this culture change possible but not inevitable. FDA deserves the food community’s continued input and support to make it happen.
Former FDA deputy commissioner for foods and current Board Member Emeritus at Stop Foodborne Illness