WASHINGTON – Seeking a modernized and effective foods program at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), food industry professionals, consumer advocates and public health organizations formed the FDA Foods Coalition.

In launching the coalition on Oct. 26, members shared that it aims to make sure the FDA prevents foodborne illness outbreaks and other food safety risks, and decreases diet-related chronic diseases.

The coalition stated it supports the FDA’s proposed redesign of the Human Foods Program, and it plans to “educate policymakers, media and the public about improving the governance” of that program. The coalition plans to “facilitate greater transparency, accountability and meaningful stakeholder engagement” by working with the Human Foods Program’s new leadership.

The FDA’s recent delayed response to the infant formula crisis, the coalition said, led many of the organizations involved to begin working together.

While the coalition plans to add more stakeholders, it currently is comprised of Consumer Reports, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), the American Frozen Food Institute, Association of Food and Drug Officials, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Brands Association, Consumer Federation of America, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group, International Fresh Produce Association, Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association, STOP Foodborne Illness, and Western Growers.

IDFA senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs Roberta Wagner, a co-chair for the coalition, said the industry needs a strong, unified and modernized FDA to assure innovation and growth.

“The coalition will continue to advocate that FDA shift away from its traditional reactionary model to a modernized, prevention-oriented oversight model that aligns with industry’s immense efforts to ensure continual improvement and prevent problems from occurring, as exemplified by industry’s ongoing implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA),” Wagner said. “Industry values FDA’s oversight role in assuring companies produce safe food every day for American consumers, and we look forward to supporting the agency’s Human Foods Program through this coalition.”

Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports and coalition co-chair, said consumers depend on the FDA to prevent food safety risks.

“Commissioner (Robert) Califf has proposed a redesign that will allow the Human Foods Program to carry out its critical mission and make the agency more accountable and transparent,” Ronholm said. “Our coalition supports these changes and believes the implementation of them is critically important to all of the FDA’s food system stakeholders.”

The FDA Foods Coalition shared that it plans to work with the agency to make sure the redesigned Human Foods Program:

● “Communicates, embraces and promotes a clear and compelling vision, mission and value statement.”

● “Institutes an organizational structure with a single leader with a clear articulation of roles, responsibilities and accountability, and a culture that is well-equipped to sustain leadership transitions.”

● “Establishes – through the new deputy commissioner position – a management system that fully integrates the Human Foods Program on policy, resource management and field operations, and leads a program-wide transformation that prioritizes the shift to a public health prevention culture in both headquarters and field operations.”

● “Develops and nurtures a culture where regulatory decision-making is focused on consumer safety and public health, rooted in scientific evidence and FDA’s legal framework, and occurs in a timely and predictable way.”

● “Prioritizes meaningful stakeholder engagement and collaboration in regulatory priority setting, and decision making based on science-driven and effective risk management principles, maximum transparency and data sharing.”

● “Establishes a stronger, more cooperative relationship with state, local and tribal governments, including fulfilling the FSMA vision of a national integrated food safety system.”

● “Formulates an appropriations strategy that considers stakeholder input and includes a well-defined, prioritized agenda, and clarity and transparency on how program funding would be allocated.”

● “Has authority and resources to ensure that the agency’s enterprise modernization initiative meets the operational and data management needs of the Human Foods Program.”