The Food and Drug Administration will take a look at its policy for approving animal feed ingredients, which has been criticized for treating them as animal drugs subject to lengthy reviews.
In response to questions from Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., at a Senate agriculture appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said he was “committed to reviewing” the agency’s policy on feed ingredients.
The U.S. has pledged to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030 as part of a promise to cut greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, and numerous feed ingredients have shown promise in significantly reducing methane from livestock.
Bovaer, a product developed by Royal DSM that the company says consistently reduces emissions by 30%, has received approval in the European Union, for example, but is under consideration at FDA as an animal drug. The agency has consistently declined to comment on the status of its application.
“The impact on emissions has got to be an important consideration,” Califf said. After the hearing, he noted that Moran has not been the only lawmaker to question him about FDA’s process, which has been criticized by feed manufacturers.
Also at the hearing, Califf and other officials responded to criticism of the agency’s food safety oversight, which has intensified as the nation has dealt with an infant formula shortage caused in part when a plant had to be shut down after FDA inspectors found numerous violations.
Califf noted that on Tuesday, he announced a comprehensive review of the agency’s human foods programs, which will be completed within about three months after the contract details have been worked out. The agency is working with the Reagan-Udall Foundation to gather “external agency experts” for a review.
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Califf was accompanied at the hearing by Susan Mayne, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response, and Michael Rogers, assistant commissioner for Human and Animal Food Operations.
Following the FDA panel, the subcommittee heard from Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports, and Sarah Gallo, vice president for product policy at the Consumer Brands Association.
Gallo said “the lack of a single, full-time, fully empowered, expert leader affects all aspects of the FDA’s food program. Inefficient decision making has slowed reviews, hindering progress and even rendering innovation obsolete. Inexperienced and undertrained inspectors are being sent into the field. A split and siloed food program undercuts communication and collaboration at the expense of efficiency and responsiveness.”
CBA and a broad range of business and public health groups called on Califf in April to ”unify the FDA food program under a deputy commissioner for foods, with accountability to the commissioner and direct line authority over CFSAN, (the Center for Veterinary Medicine], and the food-related components and operations of (the Office of Regulatory Affairs.)