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U. S. FDA Appoints Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods


Following the report of the Reagan-Udall Foundation, Independent Expert Panel for Foods, the FDA embarked on a review of all food-related activities.  A major recommendation of the Panel was the appointment of a qualified and experienced Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods within the Food and Drug Agency (FDA). The position was intended to be responsible for all food related aspects of research, regulation and enforcement of food safety and human nutrition in a single structural entity within the FDA.


On Wednesday, August 24th, Dr. Robert M. Califf, Commissioner of the FDA announced the appointment of James Jones to serve as First Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods.  In his position, Jones will set priorities for a unified human foods program aimed to improve food safety, reduce diet-related diseases and improve health equity.  His term of office will commence on September 24th. In this position, Jones will be supported by a leadership team and will work closely with other FDA executives to ensure coordination.  He will not have oversight over the Center for Veterinary Medicine or the Office of Regulatory Affairs.


Jones earned baccalaureate and Master’s degrees in economics. He gained over 30 years of experience mainly with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency where he was involved in the impact of chemicals and pollution on the food supply.  He was responsible for the 2016 update of the Toxic Substances Control Act and was concerned with regulation of pesticides and chemicals.


In announcing the appointment, Commissioner Califf stated, “Our proposed reorganization is the largest undertaking of its kind in recent history for our Agency.  I am confident that under Jim’s leadership we will build a stronger organization that will be integrated with other components of the FDA and focused on keeping the foods we regulate safe and nutritious.”


EGG-NEWS expresses concern that the incumbent, despite his administrative experience with the EPA, is not a physician and has no formal training in appropriate biological sciences. Surely a national search could have identified a recognized leader in food safety and nutrition with credentials in human medicine, epidemiology and food safety and with appropriate experience in administration. Perhaps qualified potential candidates were identified but declined based on the organizational structure established by the present Commissioner that deviated from the recommendations of the Panel established by the Reagan-Udall Commission.


Ultimately more radical restructuring will be necessary involving separation of the food-regulatory and nutritional aspects of the FDA into a separate Agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. This will be motivated by a probable future health crisis relating to imported or domestic foods or a repeat of the infant-formula debacle as predicted by previous senior FDA administrators in Congressional testimony.