The Food and Drug Administration’s first Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods, Jim Jones, started his work yesterday and sent the below letter to colleagues.
FDA Commissioner Robert Calif appointed Jones after the agency’s embarrassing turmoil over the lack of a clear chain of command on the food side of its responsibilities. Internal staff and administrators, consumer groups, and an outside review panel from the Reagan Udall Foundation agreed that changes were needed. That agreement burst onto the public stage in 2022 after an outbreak linked to infant formula and a subsequent recall months later led to a nationwide formula shortage.
Congressional hearings regarding the infant formula crisis revealed the internal failures at the FDA regarding food safety and a tangled chain of command system.
Before being tapped to lead the food side of the FDA, Jones worked at the Environmental Protection Agency.
While at the EPA, Jones served for more than 30 years in various positions involving the stakeholder community and private industry, where he 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 an expanded position as FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, Jones will fill the voids left at the FDA by the February departure of Frank Yiannas, who was Deputy Commissioner of Food Policy and Response, and the May retirement of Susan Mayne, who headed the Office of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Here is the letter Jones sent out to staff on Sept. 25.
“As I begin my first day with the FDA, I wanted to start by saying hello to all of you and share how excited I am to be here. It’s an honor to be stepping into the Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods role, even as the work of building the new Human Foods Program lies ahead. I believe strongly in the vision that Commissioner (Robert) Califf has set out and know that all of us together will make the vision for a unified foods program a reality.
“I came here to lead our transformation into a single program that embraces coordination, prevention, and response activities. I am keenly aware of this extraordinary opportunity to modernize and integrate our food safety system and enhance our work to improve nutrition.
“Of course, many challenges lay ahead. I will seek your expertise, ideas, and creativity to build a program that maximizes our collective strengths. Together, CFSAN, OFPR, and ORA will bring the best we have to bear, creating a program that surpasses what each has been able to accomplish separately.
“I will also be looking for ways to work more effectively with our many stakeholders, leveraging their commitment and energy toward accomplishing our shared goals of a safer and more nutritious food supply.
“I hope you will be able to join me this Thursday at 11:30 for a Human Foods All Hands meeting in the Wiley Auditorium, where I can share more with you about myself and my plans for the coming months. A virtual option will also be available.
“I look forward to the important work we will do together.
Editor’s Note: Food Safety News has had a pending interview request for Jones since late August. An FDA staff person said no interview will be granted for several more days.
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