FDA unveils first Deputy Commissioner for Humans Foods Program

Posted: 24 August 2023 | | No comments yet

The FDA has revealed that James “Jim” Jones will be the first Deputy Commissioner for its Human Foods Program.


After keeping the food and beverage industry waiting with bated breath, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has revealed who the first Deputy Commissioner of its Human Foods Program (HFP) will be.

The FDA has chosen James “Jim” Jones to be the first Deputy Commissioner, a newly created executive position that the FDA claims will “lead the charge in setting and advancing priorities for a proposed unified HFP”.

In his role, Jones will be overseeing areas including food safety, chemical safety and innovative food products, including those from new agricultural technologies. The FDA has said that Jones’ oversight of these areas will “will bolster the resilience of the US food supply in the face of climate change and globalisation, as well as nutrition to help reduce diet-related diseases and improve health equity”.

As Deputy Commissioner of the HFP, Jones will be providing executive leadership over the entire Program as well as over resource allocation, risk-prioritisation strategy, policy, and major response activities involving human foods. Reporting directly to Jones will be the leadership for Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and Office of Food Policy and Response until the proposed HFP reorganisation is implemented. 

Commenting on his new role, Jones said: “I am very excited about the opportunity to serve as the first Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods at the FDA. I had the pleasure of serving on the expert panel that provided operational recommendations for the FDA’s foods-related activities, and I now look forward to helping the agency realise its vision for the proposed Human Foods Program, including carrying out important nutrition initiatives to improve the health of our country,

“As a former pesticide regulator, I have a deep understanding of the unique needs of government programmes involved in upholding safety of the US food supply, as well as the important role that the agriculture community and state partners play in this paradigm. I am honoured to serve the FDA and the country in this new capacity.”

Jones’ start date for the FDA’s landmark role is 24 September 2023. His career to date has involved more than 30 years of working in various positions in the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), stakeholder community and private industry where he has managed teams and provided strategic planning and thought leadership around issues related to chemical safety and sustainability in the environment.

The FDA has said that his work has focused on “lessening the impact that chemicals and pollution have on the US food supply”. In his time at the EPA, Jones was a Principal Architect of the 2016 overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act, reportedly the first update of that statute in more than 40 years. In addition, Jones was responsible for decision-making related to the regulation of pesticides and commercial chemicals.

What’s more, Jones has also led several national sustainability programmes, including the EPA’s Environmental Preferable Purchasing Program and the Presidential Green Chemistry Awards Challenge.

The FDA has described Jones as “a seasoned leader whose experience managing change initiatives within the federal government will be invaluable as we continue to build a unified HFP”.

Also during his career, Jones has been described as an “integral member” of the Reagan-Udall Foundation’s Independent Expert Panel for Foods, which submitted a report on the operational evaluation of the FDA’s Human Foods Program to the agency in December 2022. This is something that the FDA believes “makes him intimately knowledgeable of the agency’s challenges and opportunities, and the panel’s recommendations that the FDA is adopting in its proposal for a unified HFP”.

Sharing his stance on the appointment of the long-awaited Deputy Commissioner, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Jim to the FDA. His impressive career, extensive leadership experience, and passionate vision for the future of the Human Foods Program make him an ideal selection for this pivotal position,

“Our proposed reorganisation is the largest undertaking of its kind in recent history for our agency. I’m confident that under Jim’s leadership, we will build a stronger organisation that will be integrated with other components of the FDA and focused on keeping the foods we regulate safe and nutritious, while ensuring the agency remains on the cutting edge of the latest advancements in food science and nutrition. I’m looking forward to working with him when he joins us next month.”

The FDA has said that the Deputy Commissioner for the HFP will be supported by an executive leadership team and “work closely” with other FDA executives to ensure priorities are “appropriately coordinated and advanced”. Jones will also be working closely with the ORA on human foods-related activities as well as the Center for Veterinary Medicine activities that have a nexus to human foods.

New Food has kept its readers updated in the last few months regarding the food and beverage industry’s expectations for the FDA’s “single unified leader”. In several episodes of our Food To Go Podcast, New Food sat down with Steven Mandernach, Executive Director of the Association of Food and Drug Officials. With the FDA’s new announcement, Mandernach has shared his view of the chosen Deputy Commissioner, stating: “The board and staff of the Association of Food and Drug Officials are excited about the appointment of the new Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods, Jim Jones,

“Jones is highly regarded as a great partner. He has a record of working with state partners in his roles at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Because of his role as a member of the Panel that did an operational evaluation of the FDA’s Human Foods Program at Commissioner Califf’s request, Jones is knowledgeable of the agency’s challenges and opportunities, and the panel’s recommendations that the FDA is adopting in its proposal for a unified HFP. We look forward to collaborating with him in his new role,” continued Mandernach.

In recent months, New Food’s Grace Galler also spoke to Consumer Brands Association (CBA) regarding the appointment. Providing an updated view, Vice President of Product Policy at CBA, Sarah Gallo, said: “We are pleased by FDA’s announcement of Jim Jones as the newly appointed Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods. Jones embodies the management qualifications the industry and stakeholders have been asking for to ensure FDA can properly deliver on its mission of protecting consumer health and safety.

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“We commend Commissioner Califf on this hire and are encouraged that this is a step toward modernising the agency so it can move at the speed of the consumer.”

Gallo also went on to highlight that CBA puts providing products that are safe as the industry’s “top priority”.  She continued: “Our companies follow rigorous safety standards and comply with regulations set by the FDA. It is, therefore, imperative for the Deputy Commissioner to defend its existing and comprehensive science-based system to deter patchwork state regulations that put the burden on consumers and undermine public health.

“Jones enters the agency at a critical time for consumers and the industry with a number of important and impactful issues under consideration that deserve attention and engagement – from front-of-pack labelling to defining “healthy” to chemicals management. Consumer Brands is eager to partner with Jones to transform the agency into one that is structured, governed and funded for success,” concluded Gallo.

Also providing industry opinion on the first Deputy Commissioner, Mitzi Baum, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness, commented: “Mr Jones played a critical role serving on the Reagan-Udall Foundation expert panel diving into the systemic structural and cultural issues that have plagued the FDA for years.

“He has a history of working collaboratively with stakeholders which lends a healthy dose of optimism to moving significant consumer safety issues forward, including food recall modernisation and reprioritising the Food Safety Modernization Act. Food safety is essential for public health, it’s more than time to elevate its value to protect all citizens.”  

In addition, Mike Taylor, board member emeritus of STOP and former FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, explained: “Jim is among the most public-spirited and able government leaders I know. 

“I cannot think of a better choice for this crucial role. In his 20 years in leadership positions at EPA, Jim demonstrated know-how to lead complex, science-based regulatory programs in a visionary and inclusive way. Jim knows food safety and the food system from his leadership of EPA’s pesticide program, and he knows the food safety and nutrition challenges FDA faces through his service on the Reagan-Udall Foundation Expert Panel.”

With high praise from various members of the industry it seems that food sector is eagerly awaiting Jones to start his role on 24 September. However, only time will tell what changes Jones will implement at the FDA and New Food will keep its readers updated with any developments at the Agency regarding the HFP in the coming months. 

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