Blame my odd sense of humor. When I see the words “human foods,” I think of the product that is dispensed daily to the bowl of our family’s 120-pound pit bull mix.
Setting this peculiarity of my associative processes aside, I see that the Food and Drug Administration’s appointment of James (“Jim”) Jones as the agency’s first deputy commissioner for human foods has been greeted warmly by a number of organizations and individuals, including Western Growers, the Consumer Brands Association, and the American Frozen Foods Institute.
In an August 24 email to me, food safety litigator Bill Marler wrote, “I met Mr. Jones when I testified before the Reagan-Udall Foundation when it was tasked by the Commissioner to review the FDA Human Foods Program. Mr. Jones was engaged and asked good questions. I am hopeful that the new proposed structure of the FDA allows for the transparency and accountability needed to make him successful.”
Marler is referring to the report by the Reagan-Udall Foundation developed in the wake of the FDA’s disastrous response to the infant formula scandal of early 2022. (For the full report, see here. Human Foods Program Independent Expert Panel Final Report 120622.pdf (reaganudall.org))
The agency was assailed for four months of negligence in following up on a whistleblower’s alert on Abbott Labs’ manufacturing defects.
About Jones’ appointment, Natalie Dyenson, chief food safety and regulatory officer for the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) BB #:378962, commented, “We have long advocated for the importance of having a unified Human Foods Program with a single point of accountability for food safety and program leader who can and will elevate the importance of foods within FDA.”
The Reagan-Udall Foundation recommended the consolidation of the functions of several FDA agencies that monitored food health and safety. Responding to the recommendation, the FDA announced such a consolidation earlier this year in the Human Foods Program. (See here for a capsule summary of the reorganization)
Jones, who was one of the authors of the Reagan-Udall report, will report directly to FDA commissioner Robert Califf.
In a June 28 video discussing the reorganization, Califf put the situation in perspective by noting, “We’re tied with Denmark and Canada for the safest food in the world.”
Califf went on to add that agency reorganization in itself cannot address the entirety of the food safety issue: “We can’t fix it by rearranging the deck chairs here.”
Better funding is needed: “We’re trying to prompt Congress to do a bit more in this area,” said Califf.