U.S – In a significant development for the food and beverage industry, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has unveiled its inaugural Deputy Commissioner for the Human Foods Program (HFP).

James “Jim” Jones has been chosen to fill this newly created executive position, responsible for leading the charge in setting and advancing priorities within the proposed unified HFP.

This appointment follows the resignation of Frank Yiannas, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, earlier in the year.

Yiannas had expressed concerns about the decentralized structure of the foods program, which he believed hindered the FDA’s ability to function cohesively and protect the public effectively.

Jim Jones will oversee a wide range of critical areas, including food safety, chemical safety, and innovative food products, especially those utilizing new agricultural technologies.

The FDA anticipates that Jones’s leadership will enhance the resilience of the U.S. food supply amid challenges like climate change and globalization. Additionally, his role will focus on nutrition initiatives aimed at reducing diet-related diseases and improving health equity.

Key responsibilities and reporting structure

As Deputy Commissioner of the HFP, Jones will provide executive leadership for the entire program, including resource allocation, risk prioritization strategy, policy formulation, and major response activities related to human foods.

Until the proposed HFP reorganization takes effect, he will directly oversee the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and the Office of Food Policy and Response.

In response to his appointment, Jim Jones expressed excitement about serving as the first Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods at the FDA.

“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,” he said.

A Career dedicated to sustainability

Jim Jones brings over 30 years of experience to his new role, gained through various positions in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), stakeholder communities, and private industry.

His career has been marked by strategic planning and thought leadership focused on chemical safety and environmental sustainability.

Throughout his career, Jim Jones has been instrumental in efforts to reduce the impact of chemicals and pollution on the U.S. food supply.

Notably, he played a significant role in the overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act in 2016, the first update to the statute in over four decades. He also made critical decisions regarding the regulation of pesticides and commercial chemicals.

In addition to his regulatory work, Jones led national sustainability programs, including the EPA’s Environmental Preferable Purchasing Program and the Presidential Green Chemistry Awards Challenge.

The FDA views Jim Jones as a seasoned leader with a wealth of experience in managing change initiatives within the federal government.

His familiarity with the challenges and opportunities facing the FDA, as evidenced by his involvement with the Reagan-Udall Foundation’s Independent Expert Panel for Foods, positions him to contribute effectively to the proposed unified HFP.

FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D., expressed his enthusiasm for Jim Jones’s appointment, noting that it comes at a pivotal moment for the agency.

He anticipates that, under Jones’s leadership, the FDA will build a stronger organization that integrates with other agency components, prioritizing the safety and nutrition of regulated foods while staying at the forefront of food science and nutrition advancements.

Jim Jones will work closely with an executive leadership team and collaborate with other FDA executives to ensure coordinated progress on priorities.

His role will extend to working closely with the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) on human foods-related activities and the Center for Veterinary Medicine on activities related to human foods. His tenure is set to commence on September 24, 2023.

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