(Bloomberg) -- The top US food safety official said he’ll step down from his position next month, departing after an extended controversy over infant formula led to a massive recall and shortage of the product.
Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Food Policy and Response, cited concerns about inheriting a decentralized structure of the foods program that he said significantly impaired the agency’s ability to operate as an integrated team and protect the public. His effective date of resignation is Feb. 24, he said Wednesday in a letter to Commissioner Robert Califf.
The agency’s food division has been under fire from critics who say it was slow to respond to questions about safety at an Abbott Laboratories infant-formula manufacturing site that was linked to contamination and the illnesses and deaths of infants. Abbott has said there’s no definitive evidence linking its products to the deaths and illnesses.
It’s been a month since an outside report requested by Califf criticized the FDA’s food program for “duplicative” and “competing roles and responsibilities.” The outside review, organized by the nonprofit Reagan-Udall Foundation, called on the agency to restructure the organization of the food program and appoint a strong leader to limit turmoil and internal conflicts.
Critics have said that the program’s leadership limited its ability to respond to crises. Susan Mayne leads the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and reports directly to Califf. Yiannas also reports directly to the FDA commissioner, and doesn’t have direct oversight over CFSAN.
FDA remains committed to providing an update on steps to strengthen the foods program by the end of the month, an agency spokesperson said in a statement. Additional updates on the organizational structure, including how Yiannas’ responsibilities will be handled, will be shared by the end of February, the spokesperson said.
(Updates with agency review in fourth paragraph.)
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