Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert M. Califf confirmed Tuesday the adjustments within the agency's foods division — after the baby formula crisis — would not include firings, Politico reported.
While noting the FDA underwent some recent "leadership changes," including Food Policy and Response Deputy Commissioner Frank Yianna's resignation last week, Califf also told reporters that large staff restructurings were not planned.
"The short answer is no one's going to be resigned or fired because of the infant formula situation," shared Califf, while unveiling the redesigned foods program focused on enhancing "coordinated prevention and response activities."
FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Janet Woodcock reiterated many of Califf's points while talking to reporters Tuesday, arguing the agency's bungled response to the baby formula shortage was "a systems' problem, not an individual problem."
"And so the system fixes that we are putting in place, both the information technology support as well as many of the changes, will address all the different issues," said Woodcock. "This was a failure of the systems — to the extent there was a failure — to provide the information to the right people at the right time."
This agency's firm stance comes in the backdrop of criticism levied against the FDA last year for its handling of nationwide baby formula shortages, which some advocates and lawmakers believe the agency failed to produce an efficient and effective response.
A report released in December bolstered many of those claims, detailing that FDA leadership suffered "constant turmoil" in its ranks during the crisis that left staff "wondering which program is responsible for decision-making."
"The lack of a clear overarching leader of the Human Foods Program has contributed to a culture of indecisiveness and inaction and created disincentives for collaboration," read the independent report by several former agency officials and scientists.
Califf had admitted months later to the House Appropriations Committee that a food safety report mailed in October 2021 criticizing conditions at Abbott Laboratories' baby formula factory did not reach him until mid-February 2022.
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