EPA’s James “Jim” Jones was named Wednesday as the first FDA Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods. 

In an expanded position, he will fill the voids left at the FDA by the February departure of Frank Yiannas, who was the Deputy Commission for the then Food Policy Office, and the May retirement of Susan Mayne, who headed the Office of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

A Yiannas-Mayne rift was reported in 2022 that was so serious that they’d even argue about how food outbreaks should be investigated. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, who came on board in February 2022, had little choice but to work on a reorganization plan.

Jones is scheduled to begin at the FDA on Sept. 24. 

Consumer Reports, which during the past year has worked in coalition with consumer groups, food industry representatives, and state and local regulators to urge FDA reforms,  said it supports the Jones appointment.

The new Food and Drug Administration executive position will lead in setting and advancing priorities for the proposed unified Human Foods Program (HFP). Program areas would include food safety, chemical safety, and innovative food products, including those from new agricultural technologies, that are intended to bolster the resilience of the U.S. food supply.

A report issued by the Reagan Udall Foundation in 2022 concluded that the FDA’s culture, organizational structure, and governance model have undermined its effectiveness. 

“Jim Jones is an excellent choice to lead the FDA’s critical food safety mission,” said Brian Ronholm, food policy director for Consumer Reports. “With his leadership experience and work on the Reagan-Udall Foundation report, he has extensive knowledge of what will be required to transform the culture at the FDA Human Foods Program into one that is transparent, accountable, and focused on prevention. We look forward to working with him to put in place a process that includes meaningful stakeholder engagement to help ensure the FDA can better protect the public.”

The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), The Consumer Brands Association and Western Growers are among the other organizations welcoming the Jones appointment.

Jones for more than 30 years has served in various EPA positions involving stakeholder community and private industry where he has managed teams and provided strategic planning and thought leadership around issues related to chemical safety and sustainability in the environment. 

Jones has experience in lessening the impact that chemicals and pollution have on the U.S. food supply. He was a principal architect of EPA’s  2016 overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act, the first update of that statute in more than 40 years. 

In 2022, Commissioner Califf ordered an external review of the agency’s Office of Food Safety following widespread criticism of its handling of the infant formula crisis. The report validated many concerns about the FDA raised by Consumer Reports and its diverse coalition of consumer groups, industry leaders, and local regulators.

“I’m delighted to welcome Jim to the FDA. His impressive career, extensive leadership experience, and passionate vision for the future of the Human Foods Program make him an ideal selection for this pivotal position,” said Califf.

 “Our proposed reorganization is the most significant undertaking of its kind in recent history for our agency. I’m confident that under Jim’s leadership, we will build a more vital organization that will be integrated with other components of the FDA and focused on keeping the foods we regulate safe and nutritious while ensuring the agency remains on the cutting edge of the latest advancements in food science and nutrition. I’m looking forward to working with him when he joins us next month,” the FDA’s chief added.

At the EPA Jones was responsible for decision-making related to regulating pesticides and commercial chemicals. He also led several national sustainability programs, including the EPA’s Environmental Preferable Purchasing Program and the Presidential Green Chemistry Awards Challenge.

As Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods, Jones will report directly to the FDA Commissioner. He will exercise decision-making authority over all HFP entities when the reorganization is in effect, including related Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) activities. He will provide executive leadership over the entire program and resource allocation, risk-prioritization strategy, policy, and significant response activities involving human foods. The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Administration and Office of Food Policy and Response will report to Jones until the proposed HFP reorganization is implemented.  

“I am very excited about the opportunity to serve as the FDA’s first Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods. I had the pleasure of serving on the expert panel that provided operational recommendations for the FDA’s foods-related activities, and I now look forward to helping the agency realize its vision for the proposed Human Foods Program, including carrying out important nutrition initiatives to improve the health of our country,” said Jones. “As a former pesticide regulator, I deeply understand the unique needs of government programs involved in upholding the safety of the U.S. food supply and the important role that the agriculture community and state partners play in this paradigm. I am honored to serve the FDA and the country in this new capacity.”

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