WASHINGTON – As the Reagan-Udall Foundation’s panel of independent experts evaluates the US Food and Drug Administration’s human foods program, the International Dairy Foods Association submitted formal comments suggesting reforms.

The IDFA’s senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, Joseph Scimeca, submitted the comments to the panel, which is reviewing the FDA program’s structure, leadership, authority, resources and culture.

Scimeca summarized his comments and the organization’s advice in a statement released by the IDFA.

“The outcome of this panel must be to identify gaps at FDA and recommend a comprehensive strategy and timeline to establish the agency’s strategic priorities, assess resourcing and reorganize leadership to bring focus, accountability and transparency to reestablish FDA’s credibility and mission on behalf of consumers,” he said.

The IDFA submitted four recommendations to the panel:

• Scimeca said the FDA should “establish a deputy commissioner for foods to ensure the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Center for Veterinary Medicine and the food personnel of the Office of Regulatory Affairs have an aligned strategic direction, clear priorities, sound resource management and internal accountability.”

• The association also advocated for the FDA proactively leveraging input from outside entities, such as states, academics and industry and consumer groups. “For example, FDA should reestablish advisory committees and expert panels composed of individuals drawn from academia, industry and consumer groups,” Scimeca said.

• The IDFA expressed its “longstanding disappointment” in the FDA’s “lack of progress on modernizing food standards of identity,” and recommended the organization “create a system for standards that allows food makers to account for innovation.” Scimeca said it should respond to consumer trends and needs as technological and food science advancements reshape the landscape. “IDFA has long advocated for such reforms, yet, due to the lack of transparency and lack of outreach to industry, standards modernization has failed,” he said.

• Members of IDFA also want to see the FDA cultivate a food safety culture of prevention by continually improving and collaborating with academic experts, state regulatory agencies and the food industry. Scimeca said, “FDA policy development, industry guidance and outreach should be focused on basic, foundation-level food safety practices in collaboration with industry experts.”

The review officially launched in early September, and, per the Reagan-Udall Foundation, the panel will develop recommendations to help the FDA better carry out its regulatory responsibilities, strengthen relationships with state and local governments and secure the nation’s food supply.

The IDFA’s full comments can be found on its website.