Food Safety Law Rollout, Antibiotics Top Priority as Ex-FDA Chief Starts New Gig

Despite finalizing the last of its rules implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Food and Drug Administration will keep taking input from the public on the sweeping regulations, the agency’s new deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine said in a question-and-answer session posted on its website. 

“There’s no guarantee that we dotted all the ‘I’s and crossed all the ‘T’s exactly right as we finalized these regulations, despite all of the feedback through stakeholder engagement sessions and the public comments that we received,” Stephen Ostroff said in the June 3 posting. 

Ostroff is no stranger to anybody who has been following agriculture policy. Before his new gig, Ostroff served in several posts at the FDA, including as acting commissioner of the entire agency from April 2015 until Congress confirmed its current head, Robert Califf, in February 2016. Ostroff is taking on oversight of food and veterinary medicine from Michael Taylor, who became the program’s first deputy director in 2010.


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Ostroff is coming on just after the agency finalized May 26 the last of seven major rules implementing the comprehensive food safety law enacted in 2011. The final rule addresses intentional adulteration of the food supply. Analysts say stakeholders can expect the FDA to issue more guidance clarifying the rules in the coming years. 

Ostroff also touched on how the FDA will handle foodborne illness outbreaks, saying he would step up monitoring FSMA compliance and employing new technologies to trace contamination. 

“One of the best tools we’ll be using more frequently is whole genome sequencing, a scientific tool that is something of a game changer in how rapidly it enables us to identify an outbreak and find the source,” Ostroff said. 

Stopping the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is also a top priority he said. 

“We recently expanded sales data collection to require that sponsors of antimicrobial medications provide estimates of their sales data broken down by species of food-producing animals, in addition to overall sales,” Ostroff said. 

In March, the FDA clarified how it planned to roll out new guidance aimed at reducing the over-the-counter use of antibiotics important to human health in livestock.