FDA urged to take action on public health issues, particularly in the food system

FDA Commissioner Califf speaks at podium


CSPI recommends healthy eating promotion, healthy food environments, and food safety as agency priorities

The Food and Drug Administration should set an agenda that restores the rigor of its decision-making, improves public trust, and addresses public health issues in the food system, according to a letter sent yesterday to Commissioner Robert Califf by Center for Science in the Public Interest president Dr. Peter Lurie. The letter outlined CSPI’s recommended priority areas for the agency, including investing in promoting healthy eating patterns, creating healthier food environments, and ensuring a safer food supply.  

“Commissioner Califf has an opportunity to set an ambitious but achievable agenda for the FDA and create a healthier and safer food system,” said Lurie. “We look forward to supporting the agency’s work.” 

In the letter, CSPI first urged the FDA to increase investments in promoting healthier eating patterns. Currently, only two percent of FDA’s staff budget for food goes toward promoting healthy eating patterns, despite diet-related disease being a leading cause of preventable death in the United States today. To address this gap, CSPI asked the FDA to increase investment and staffing in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and to support a National Institute of Nutrition. The FDA’s FY2023 budget released yesterday provides a modest increase of $13.5 million that would support nutrition initiatives such as encouraging industry to reformulate healthier food options and empowering consumers through more accessible labeling and nutrition education. 

To improve healthier food environments, CSPI recommended three priorities, including monitoring industry progress in sodium reduction targets, establishing voluntary added sugar reduction targets for packaged and restaurant foods and beverages, and improving labeling on menus and packaged foods, including in the online environment. These changes would support consumers in making healthier and more informed choices at restaurants and in grocery stores, according to the letter. 

CSPI also includes nine recommendations for improving the safety of the food supply. It urged the FDA to complete two critical food safety rules required under the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act addressing the safety of water used for produce production and enhancing product traceability. Other recommended priorities in the letter included critical reforms in dietary supplement regulation, closing the Generally Recognized as Safe loophole for additives, reducing inappropriate antibiotic use in agriculture, and improving allergen labeling. 

CSPI concluded by urging the FDA to consider additional public health priorities such as improving agency disclosure policies and transparency, reforming the Emergency Use Authorization process, and extending FDA oversight to laboratory-developed tests. 

“The FDA’s single biggest challenge is restoring public trust after the unfortunate politicization of the agency under the Trump administration. Some of the agency’s own decisions have exacerbated this loss of trust,” wrote Lurie. “The FDA must take this opportunity to restore public trust and boost confidence in government public health recommendations.”