Jim Jones was appointed Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods in August 2023.  Through the leadership of FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D., the overhaul of the FDA’s food program is getting well-deserved additional attention as it protects our food supply and dietary supplements.  Under the new unified Human Foods Program (HFP) to be led by Jones, the framework will be “guided by the principle of protecting and promoting the health and wellness of all U.S. consumers.” 

The proposed structure for the HFP can be viewed here; this provides a look into the framework and vision for the HFP.  The HFP has three priority areas as it moves forward: 

  • Preventing Foodborne Illness 
  • Decreasing Diet-Related Chronic Disease Through Improved Nutrition 
  • Safeguarding the Food Supply Through the Safe Use of Chemicals and Dietary Supplements 

The HFP program is also “proposing to stand up an Office of Critical Foods as part of the unified HFP to manage the regulation of infant formula and medical foods.”  The infant formula crisis, due to contamination, and the shortages that resulted were, without a doubt, a precipitating factor in revisiting the program.  In addition, the confusion surrounding the definition of a medical food and how these products are regulated has presented a regulatory conundrum for decades. 

E. Coli and Salmonella contamination of our food supply has made the news all too often over the last few decades. And if you watched a recent episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight on HBO, you could certainly get a sense of the need to better address the prevention of foodborne illnesses.

Education will play an increased role in the nutrition program as well as ensuring that “people in the U.S. have greater access to healthier foods and nutrition information we can all use to identify healthier foods more easily.”  Other targets of the program will be reduction of sodium across the food supply as well as developing strategies for reducing added sugar consumption in the U.S.  And for those of you who read our blog regularly, you know how I feel about dietary supplements with hidden drug ingredients, promotional issues associated with unsubstantiated claims, and illegal compounds being marketed as dietary supplements.  The new program initiatives may signal the beginning of a new review of how dietary supplements are regulated, which is sorely needed. 

Reducing contaminants and additives in the food supply that present health or safety issues, especially in infants and young children under the Closer to Zero program (here), are new efforts that will also be given priority in the HFP. 

Staffing resources have always been a problem for the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) as its program and regulatory responsibilities cover an incredible scope of food and other product classes.  Hopefully the new program will achieve its goals in the coming years and we will all be safer and healthier!