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Consumer Reports statement on the Reagan Udall Foundation’s review of the FDA’s food program

CR calls for strengthened leadership and accountability to improve agency’s effectiveness

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A report issued by the Reagan Udall Foundation today on its review of the FDA’s food program concluded that the agency’s culture, organizational structure and governance model have undermined its effectiveness.  FDA Commissioner Robert Califf ordered an external review of the agency’s office on food safety and tobacco regulation earlier this year following widespread criticism of its handling of the infant formula crisis.

The report validates many of the concerns about the agency raised by Consumer Reports and a diverse coalition of consumer advocates, industry leaders, and local regulators in recent months.

“Today’s report is a very encouraging first step that will hopefully translate into meaningful reform within the FDA foods program,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports.  “We cannot afford to tolerate the status quo and let this moment go by without adopting fundamental changes to improve the FDA’s ability to protect the public and ensure our food is safe.”

Ronholm continued, “We need strengthened leadership and accountability at the FDA to implement a culture of prevention, respond more quickly to problems as they arise, and take timely action on proposed food safety rules and initiatives. The FDA needs an empowered leader to ensure that all of the agency’s food program staff work together seamlessly with a common strategic direction, clear priorities, sound resource management, and internal accountability.”

In April, Consumer Reports joined an unprecedented coalition of 30 organizations representing consumers, industry leaders, and local regulators, which called for more focused leadership and accountability at the FDA. The coalition supports unifying the food program under a deputy commissioner for foods with accountability to the FDA commissioner and direct line authority over the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), and the food-related components of the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA).

Michael McCauley, michael.mccauley@consumer.org, 415-902-9537