Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf said the agency plans to soon announce the naming of the new deputy commissioner of human foods as well as unveil its innovation agenda for the Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Speaking Tuesday on a webinar hosted by the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, Califf said an announcement on who will be named the deputy commissioner for human foods is “imminent,” and FDA is also in the final interview stage with a “good slate of applicants” for a new leader of FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs.

Both are part of an FDA reorganization plan in response to the scathing Reagan-Udall report and culture concerns at the agency. Califf affirmed Tuesday he is undertaking the reorganization efforts to try and “equip the FDA to be ready for the next decade, which is predictably going to be a decade of tremendous change” because of the advancements occurring in digitization and artificial intelligence, but also challenges posed by climate change.

Califf also pointed out the “Center for Veterinary Medicine is on the move” with the development of major changes to how CVM handles approvals, including feed ingredients.

“The team at CVM has been on a mission now to modernize its activities, and they have a whole array of things that they’re going to be rolling out here shortly,” Califf said.

Califf also discussed the regulation of feed additives and the FDA's role in a desired shift from some on Capitol Hill and within the animal agriculture industry to change how new innovations in the space are regulated. 

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Califf said FDA needs to “intelligently use regulation” to help the industry meet the demands to decrease the environmental impact of animals where possible. He explained FDA is “rethinking how we review the animal applications, the interactions between the industry and personnel and the sharing of science across the enterprise.”

One bill introduced in Congress, the Innovative Feed Enhancement and Economic Development (FEED) Act of 2023, would establish a new regulatory pathway for novel feed additives that have the ability to reduce emissions or increase livestock efficiencies. The Innovative FEED Act would create a category for zootechnical animal food substances, regulating these products as food ingredients, not animal drugs.

He said it is important for the agency to not be reactive, but rather look to the future regarding what kinds of applications could come. “How do we create regular regulatory pathways that enable the industry to innovate on a pathway that leads to benefit and to stop things that are not going to be beneficial?”

Califf also defended the FDA's request for an 11% increase in overall funding. He said the additional funds would be used to implement the reorganization plan and refocus funds on nutrition, which he said he feels has been “chronically underfunded.” In addition, Congress has designated some funds for shoring up insight into chemical food safety and better understanding of the chemicals in foods, which Califf also recognized was “underfunded.”

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