FDA taps leader for new human foods program in wake of baby formula crisis

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Wednesday the first leader of a new program dedicated to human foods, part of an agency-wide reorganization effort launched in the wake of a contaminated baby formula crisis last year.

James Jones, a former official at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will serve as the new deputy commissioner for Human Foods beginning Sept. 24, the FDA said in a statement. At the EPA, Jones was a pesticide regulator who focused on lessening the impact that chemicals and pollution have on the U.S. food supply.

The new human foods program will oversee food safety, chemical safety, nutrition and other areas. The FDA said this is intended to “bolster the resilience of the U.S. food supply in the face of climate change and globalization” and to help reduce diet-related diseases.

The FDA has long faced criticism that it doesn’t give enough resources to its food safety program. Those shortcomings were exposed last year as an infant formula shortage left parents scrambling.

The human foods program combines two separate divisions into a single program. The deputy commissioner will have decision-making authority over policy, strategy and regulatory program activities, as well as resource allocation and risk prioritization.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf launched the agency overhaul following a scathing external review of the FDA’s food program in 2022 that found it to be too slow and risk averse.

Jones was a member of the team from the Reagan-Udall Foundation that authored the report, which concluded the agency’s structure “reinforces duplicative or competing roles and responsibilities, siloed work and inadequate internal and external engagement.”

“Our proposed reorganization is the largest undertaking of its kind in recent history for our agency. I’m 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, while ensuring the agency remains on the cutting edge of the latest advancements in food science and nutrition,” Califf said in a statement.

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