President Obama has named Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, a former New York City health commissioner, as head of the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the health commissioner in Baltimore, as deputy commissioner. He also announced plans to spend an additional $1 billion to modernize FDA laboratories and increase the number of federal food inspectors to enhance the country's food protection system.
At the same time, President Obama unveiled plans to create a Food Safety Working Group, which will include the secretaries of health and agriculture, to enhance coordination across federal agencies. The group will advise the administration about food safety laws and regulations that require changes and help to ensure that existing laws are enforced.
It's possible that the Food Safety Working Group could hold its first meeting as early as this week with representatives from FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control, as well as other federal agencies. States representatives and additional stakeholders, such as consumer groups, industry representatives and trade associations, may be included in future meetings.
"IDFA is reaching out to be a part of this effort, and we look forward to an opportunity to participate," said Ruth Saunders, IDFA senior director of policy and legislative affairs.
The group is expected to focus initially on developing a statement of key principles that will guide its members through a review of existing regulations and the current food safety debate in Congress.
According to Jerry Slominski, IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs, several food safety proposals are moving quickly through Congress. The president has expressed his approval of these legislative efforts, hinting that he might take steps to expand them.
"With the White House stepping up its efforts, the stars are being aligned for action," he said. "We expect to see legislative action within the next few months."
For more information, contact Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 220-3553.