The FDA named James Jones as its deputy commissioner for human foods, a new role created by the regulator as it streamlines its oversight of the space following recent challenges.
Jones, who has spent more than 30 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will be charged with setting and advancing priorities pertaining to food safety and innovative food products, including those from new agricultural technologies. He is expected to start at the agency on Sept. 24.
“Our proposed reorganization is the largest undertaking of its kind in recent history for our agency,” Robert Califf, FDA’s commissioner, said in a statement. “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, while ensuring the agency remains on the cutting edge of the latest advancements in food science and nutrition.”
Last year, the FDA faced scrutiny about safety protocols not being followed at an Abbott Laboratories baby formula site in Michigan, which led to a massive shortage of the product.
The FDA said in February it would restructure its Human Foods program, consolidating all functions and employees under a deputy commissioner. This would include the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the Office of Food Policy and Response and some functions of the Office of Regulatory Affairs. Among the challenges facing Jones will be unifying these various food divisions.
The move was among the recommendations made in an independent investigation by the Reagan-Udall Foundation. Commissioner Robert requested the investigation in July after structural problems were exposed by the massive baby formula recall and shortage.
Frank Yiannas, who resigned in February after overseeing the Office of Food Policy and Response, noted in his resignation letter a “concern that the decentralized structure of the food program ... significantly impaired the FDA’s ability to operate as an integrated food team and protect the public.” He also urged the agency’s food program to be under one deputy commissioner.
In a statement, the International Dairy Foods Association praised Jones’ appointment.
Roberta Wagner, senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs at IDFA, said “Jim’s vast government leadership experience uniquely qualifies him to navigate the transformational change FDA needs to elevate, unify, and shape the human foods program for the future.”