Yesterday Congress approved Dr. Robert Califf to be the new commissioner of the FDA. The timing is of interest because none of the presidential candidates who could vote (Sanders, Rubio and Cruz) participated. Sanders had been against Califf, citing conerns about whether he’s too interested in big pharma to adequately do his job. Whether the years Califf spent working with the same drug sponsors that now will seek his approval to come to market will make it easier remains to be seen. Curiously, where the Republican-controlled Congress has vowed not to allow Pres. Obama to appoint a new justice to the Supreme Court, only 4 votes went against Califf’s appointment. Many of them have a tough time opposing someone on the basis of lobbying influence….
But this could have an upside for food concerns. In the past, there have been strong criticisms of the FDA’s inability to adequately regulate food matters, including the lack of oversight as to vitamins and “natural” products, GMOs and food waste. Lately, the FDA has increasingly been finding violations of health regulations. More and more reports come out about food-related illnesses, which has made this a hotbed topic. Califf, a cardiologist, has been criticized for his little experience in the area of food safety. However, with his background in drugs, one could posture that Califf is well-positioned to focus the FDA’s direction on food issues and avoid potential conflicts he has with Big Pharma.