Statement of CSPI Senior Scientist Lisa Lefferts

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s announcement today that it will discontinue its Food Advisory Committee is further evidence of the low value this administration places on independent scientific advice.

The Food Advisory Committee’s role for the past 20 years has been to advise the agency on emerging food safety, food science, nutrition, and other food-related health issues.  Past meetings have discussed specific pathogens of concern, assessing risks to infants, and how to better enable the agency to recognize and evaluate evidence about emerging hazards.

FDA has many advisory committees: 18 on human drugs, four on vaccines, blood, and other biologic products, two on radiation-emitting products, and others covering medical devices, tobacco products, patient engagement, risk communication, pediatrics, and toxicological research.  Now it has no advisory committee on food.

The agency says it will get scientific advice in other ways, such as through its Science Advisory Board. But many of its members lack expertise on food issues.  And other ways of obtaining such advice, such as soliciting expert advice, workshops, and symposia, may lack the independence, conflict of interest screens and consumer presence that are required of advisory committees.   

* Lefferts served as a consumer representative on the FDA Food Advisory Committee from 2011 – 2014.