New Leaders at FDA
Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson
March 14, 2009
Dr. Margaret Hamburg has the experience and public-health focus that makes her a terrific choice for commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. She has been forward thinking in her approach both to medical and food security issues—a quality that should enable her to return the FDA to its role as a trusted, effective regulatory agency.
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein has not only the knowledge, but also the experience on Capitol Hill and as the health commissioner of a major city, to be an excellent deputy. His innovative public health leadership in Baltimore has had nationwide impact, such as when he challenged the prevailing wisdom on the use and labeling of cough syrup in infants. As health commissioner he helped phase artificial trans fat out of the city's restaurant food—a job that the FDA should complete by getting rid of partially hydrogenated oil from the food supply altogether.
While most past commissioners have focused primarily on the drug side of FDA, Drs. Hamburg and Sharfstein both are well aware the FDA also regulates foods. They will have additional resources and, I hope, new statutory authorities to improve on
FDA’s dismal record in the area of food safety and nutrition.
This new team should give fresh consideration of whether the agency itself needs to be restructured with the food regulatory functions being spun off as an independent agency.