Cancel OK

IFPA proposes National Director of Food and Nutrition

IFPA - White House Conference

The International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) BB #:378962 is shooting for the moon, or shooting the moon (whichever idiom you prefer).

It has released a policy statement entitled A Fruit and Vegetable Moonshot: Recommendations from the International Fresh Produce Association.

The statement has eight major recommendations geared toward the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which is due to take place in September.

richard smoley produce blueprints

One proposal has to do with the innovative idea of writing medical prescriptions for produce, which would enable health care insurers to subsidize better food choices for their customers.

Recommendation 7 is of interest: “Establish a cabinet-level National Director of Food and Nutrition to coordinate food and nutrition security research across governmental departments.”

The rationale: “Currently, nutrition research is conducted across 27 institutes, centers, and offices within the federal government and lacks dedicated federal leadership to coordinate, communicate, and ensure the research is effectively influencing public policy and driving population change. Leadership coordination of nutrition research is instrumental in preventing or reducing the risk of diet-related chronic diseases and also in treatment of these conditions.”

This bears some resemblance to legislation introduced in Congress last week for a proposed Food Safety Administration Act, which proposes to detach food safety regulations from the inept Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and create a separate authority.

The two proposals are not the same. The congressional legislation has to do with food safety, and the IFPA proposal has to do merely with food research.

In fact, the IFPA is tepid about the proposed Food Safety Administration. It released a comment saying, “IFPA, along with many stakeholder groups, have concerns with how food safety is currently handled at FDA. We remain optimistic that the Commissioner will implement changes at the agency without Congressional intervention.”

Nevertheless, both the congressional and the IFPA proposal are pointing toward similar ends: improving the quality of the food supply by streamlining federal oversight.

In short, they are pointing toward a Department of Food, something I have proposed in this column.

Such a department would govern both food safety and nutrition research.

Under current congressional conditions, in which legislators appear to have attained a state of learned helplessness, no program with such a far-reaching agenda has any chance of passing.

But such large measures always move slowly. I think the United States will ultimately create a Department of Food, although it will probably take a decade to do so. Government is like a big oil tanker: you can’t turn it around right away.


Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 12 books.