- Susan Mayne, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, is retiring effective May 31. She has led CFSAN for more than eight years.
- As CFSAN director, Mayne worked to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), led labeling reforms, and spearheaded the use of new science at FDA through actions including standardizing whole genome sequencing for food safety issues and the first no questions letters for cultivated meat companies.
- As the Human Foods program at FDA is getting restructured, Mayne’s retirement means there will be vacancies in leadership at both of the major divisions that deal with food. Former Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas resigned in February.
Unlike Yiannas’s departure, in which he directly addressed the problems he saw with the decentralized structure of the FDA’s food functions, Mayne’s retirement announcement has fewer overtones about the need to reform the agency.
In a note from Mayne distributed by CFSAN and shared by FDA staff, she noted she’s been eligible for retirement since 2021. She says that she strongly supports FDA Commissioner Robert Califf’s efforts to overhaul the Human Foods program, and that helped her time her retirement.
“[I]t is time for me to pass the leadership baton to a new generation of leadership who can commit to implementing the Commissioner’s vision in the coming years,” Mayne said in the note.
In a letter to FDA staff announcing Mayne’s retirement sent to Food Dive, Califf thanked her for her work and “thoughtfulness” in developing the vision and plans for the FDA’s Human Foods revamp.
“By building what I believe will be a transformative system that ensures seamless coordination across the FDA and with our many partners and stakeholders, we will continue to ensure that our nation has a safe, nutritious, and plentiful food supply. And this will stand as yet another of Susan’s many significant contributions to the advancement of public health and the strengthening of the FDA,” the letter states.
Mayne came to FDA after a long career in academia. She spent nearly three decades at Yale University, serving in this time in two leadership roles: chairman of the chronic disease epidemiology department and associate director of the Yale Cancer Center. According to her online biography at FDA, she has been author or co-author of nearly 250 scientific publications on food, nutrition and health.
FDA has experienced many major changes in food regulation since Mayne first arrived at the agency. FSMA, intended to strengthen food safety through prevention, went into effect. According to Califf’s letter, Mayne was in charge of implementation of nine foundational FSMA rules, as well as nearly 70 specific guidance documents. Nutrition Facts labeling got its first update in more than two decades. New limits were established for potentially harmful substances like arsenic in food for infants and toddlers. “Healthy” is on its way to a new FDA-regulated definition, and the agency is working toward making more allowances for manufacturers to reduce salt in processed foods. The agency has also issued no-questions letters for two cultivated meat makers, moving the nascent industry forward.
As FDA’s food division embarks on its biggest restructuring in the recent past, it’s unclear whether new permanent leadership will be named to fill the positions Yiannas and Mayne are leaving. According to a Feb. 28 update from Califf, the agency is currently searching for its new deputy commissioner for Human Foods, with hopes of finding someone as soon as possible. The finalized reorganization plan is likely to come in the fall, though the process to put it in place will take some time. However, the vacancies at the top of the food divisions may make finding the new leader for all of food a much higher priority.