FDA Official In-charge of Food Policy and Response Resigns Following Backlash of Baby Formula Shortage

Frank Yiannas (Photo: Getty Images)

Frank Yiannas, a senior official at the Food and Drug Administration responsible for overseeing the agency’s food policy and response office, announced on Wednesday that he is resigning from his position as deputy commissioner.

Yiannas played a crucial role at the FDA during last year’s infant formula shortage, when Abbott Laboratories ceased production at its largest formula factory following reports of illnesses among infants who consumed formula from the plant.

His decision to step down comes shortly after Abbott Laboratories confirmed that the Justice Department was conducting an investigation into its baby formula plant in Michigan.

In a tweet, Yiannas stated, “Today, I informed Commissioner [Robert] Califf that I will be resigning my position as Deputy Commissioner for the Office of Food Policy and Response effective February 24.

I am honored to have served the American public, alongside each and every one of you, over these past four years.”

Since December 2018, Yiannas has been instrumental in developing and implementing policies related to food safety, including responses to outbreaks, the investigation of foodborne illnesses, product recalls, and innovations in the supply chain.

Baby Formula Shortage (Photo: Ted Shaffrey)

Yiannas’ resignation follows a critical report issued by an expert panel that examined the FDA’s processes and organizational structure within its foods program.

The panel highlighted deficiencies in the agency’s “culture, structure, and governance model” that have hindered its effectiveness.

The investigation was initiated by FDA Commissioner Robert Califf in July in response to mounting criticism of the agency’s handling of the formula crisis following reports of illnesses.

According to Yiannas’ resignation letter, which was obtained by the Washington Post, he inherited a “decentralized structure” within the FDA’s foods program that significantly impeded the agency’s ability to function cohesively and protect public health.

NBC News reached out to Yiannas for further comment.

In a statement, the FDA praised Yiannas for his contributions to the agency’s leadership team, noting that his efforts in advancing key initiatives have led to “a safer and more digitally traceable food system” for the United States.

“The FDA remains committed to providing updates on efforts to strengthen the Human Foods Program by the end of January and further details on the organizational structure, including the future handling of responsibilities from Mr. Yiannas’ position, by the end of February,” an FDA spokesperson remarked.

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