Important conversations in food production this week evolved from criticizing the FDA to discussing the FDA’s proposed reorganization.

Still, critical voices in the media took aim at other topics as well, scrutinizing everything from plant-based meat alternatives to selling American corn in Mexico.

“We believe the Commissioner and the Agency’s senior leaders are focused on right things to advance the Human Foods Program and perform its Congressional mandate more efficiently and effectively.”

De Ann Davis, SVP of Science, Western Growers

Reorg Reax

On January 31, the FDA announced a plan to reorganize its Human Foods programs, following up on suggestions from the Reagan-Udall Foundation. The agency hopes to reverse its fortunes after enduring a year of criticism in the wake of its high-profile failure to manage the infant formula crisis.

  • FDA Commissioner Robert Califf outlined changes to improve the agency’s operation: unifying existing human food programs under a newly created deputy commissioner role and setting up a new division dedicated to working with state food safety agencies.
  • At least 15 industry and activist groups — including the International Fresh Produce Association, American Frozen Food Institute and Consumer Federation of America — supported the restructuring. Worth noting: most groups used the phrase “first step.”
  • Consumer Reports voiced disappointment, partly because the consolidation leaves the Center for Veterinary Medicine independent. Notably, the Animal Health Institute viewed this as a plus.
  • Food Fix writer Helena Bottemiller Evich, who has been tracking the developments very closely, asked: “What, exactly, from FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs will get folded into this new unified foods program? (ORA is the arm of FDA that does inspections).”
  • The American Heart Association thanked the FDA for using the opportunity to create a Center for Excellence in Nutrition and “[encouraged] the agency to pursue bold, new policies that help consumers make healthier choices and improve the food supply.”
  • The announcement came just one week after Frank Yiannas submitted his resignation as deputy commissioner for food policy due to the agency’s structure. Food Safety News publisher Bill Marler opined: “Lock the door and do not let Frank Yiannas leave the building. Although I do not always agree with Mr. Yiannas on policy, the Reagan-Udall Foundation’s definition of ‘ideal leadership’ reads like a Frank Yiannas resume.”

Food Industry Short Takes

While the FDA restructuring dominated food news, lots of other developments on the policy and business fronts comprise this grab bag of important news:

  • Unilever announced that Hein Schumacher will replace current CEO Alan Jope in July. Over the past year, Unilever faced criticism from investor groups over purpose vs. profit. Fundsmith founder Terry Smith suggested last year, “A company which feels it has to define the purpose of Hellmann’s mayonnaise has in our view clearly lost the plot.” (Financial Times) We’re watching closely how Schumacher will define Unilever’s “good.”
  • Alaskan villages, local wild salmon fisheries and environmentalist groups such as the National Wildlife Federation rejoiced after the EPA announced a final decision under the Clean Water Act blocking a mining operation in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
  • After some bruising criticism from former advocates writing for Bloomberg and Forbes, Impossible laid off approximately 100 people from its 700-person workforce (SF Gate).
  • Supply chain managers wary of shifting trade back to West Coast ports | CNBC
  • Explainer: Spilt milk? Why are the US and Canada fighting over dairy? | Reuters
  • 2023 farm bill discussion highlights concerns about Mexico’s GMO corn import ban | The Hill
  • SHIP It Act Reinforces Urgent Need for Supply Chain Fixes in 2023 | Consumer Brands Association
  • Is the Shipping Crisis on the Mississippi River Coming to an End? What is the Outlook for Spring? | The Scoop

Worth Reading

A Little Too Aged

Silicon Valley Bank published its annual State of the Wine Industry Report last week, looking at culprits for a two-year decline in demand. One unsettling trend is that the only demographic buying more wine is the over-60 crowd. Executive Vice President Rob McMillan explained to The New York Times that a lack of “introductory wines” is hurting the industry’s future prospects: “I’ve been talking about this problem for seven years and we still haven’t reacted.”

Ultra Hooked

Clearly, older adults are a group of divided tastes. A University of Michigan study found that 13% of those aged 50 to 80 “report signs of food addiction, saying highly processed foods cause problems in their lives on a weekly basis.” The study cited “intense cravings” as the most common symptom. As long as it doesn’t turn out like the ’90s Honeycomb mascot.

Cocoa Chemistry

Researchers at the University of Leeds have studied what makes the texture of chocolate “totally irresistible.” New Food magazine explained that fat plays a key role in lubricating the other ingredients: “The fat layer needs to be on the outer layer of the chocolate, this matters the most, followed by effective coating of the cocoa particles by fat, these help to make chocolate feel so good.” So, coating fat layers, you say …


A Japanese whaling operation has developed a work-around to avoid protesters of whale meat: vending machines. Three machines strategically placed near grocery stores offer whale sashimi, bacon and tinned meat. “61-year-old customer Mami Kashiwabara went straight for whale bacon, her father’s favorite. To her disappointment it was sold out, and she settled for frozen onomi, tail meat that is regarded as a rare delicacy.” (Associated Press)

Taking Stock

The Washington Post’s Aaron Hutcherson consulted the reliable Joy of Cooking to sort out the differences between broth and stock. “Traditionally, broth was made with meat and, sometimes, bones; stock was made with bones, but not necessarily meat. Perhaps it is best to think of stock as an ingredient and broth as more of a destination: a simple clear soup made from meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, or vegetables that is often [eaten] (or sipped) as is.”