U.S. FDA taps EPA veteran James Jones to oversee food division after formula crisis

By Leah Douglas

Aug 23 (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has selected James “Jim” Jones, a 30-year veteran of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to direct its food division as part of a broader reorganization, the agency said on Wednesday.

The FDA in January said it would reorganize its food program after being slammed for its slow response to issues at an infant formula plant that resulted in an outbreak of illness and a national formula shortage.

Jones was a member of a panel convened by the Reagan-Udall Foundation, an organization funded in part by the FDA, that conducted an evaluation of the regulator’s response to the formula crisis and recommended structural changes to its food program.

“Our proposed reorganization is the largest undertaking of its kind in recent history for our agency,” said FDA Commissioner Robert Califf in a statement. “I’m confident that under Jim’s leadership, we will build a stronger organization.”

In his deputy commissioner role, Jones will have authority over all food-related programs and resources, including its food safety, policy, nutrition, and regulatory operations, FDA said.

At EPA, Jones worked on reducing chemicals and pesticides in the food supply and on sustainability programs.

“As a former pesticide regulator, I have a deep understanding of the unique needs of government programs involved in upholding safety of the U.S. food supply,” Jones said in a statement.

Though FDA oversees the vast majority of the U.S. food supply, the agency has been criticized for under-resourcing its food-related programs.

In last year’s outbreak, five infants were sickened and two died after consuming formula from an Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) plant.

Jones will take up his now post on Sept. 24, the agency said.

Reporting by Leah Douglas; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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Source: Reuters