Frank Yiannas, a senior Food and Drug Administration official in charge of the agency’s food policy and response office, announced Wednesday that he is stepping down as deputy commissioner.
Yiannas was one of the FDA officials running the agency as it navigated last year’s infant formula shortage after Abbott Laboratories voluntarily shut down production at the nation’s largest formula factory following reports that the babies consuming formula from the plant became sick.
His resignation comes days after Abbott Laboratories confirmed that the Justice Department was investigating the company over its Michigan baby formula plant.
«Today I informed the Commissioner [Robert] Califf that I will resign my position as deputy commissioner of the Office of Food Policy and Response effective February 24,» Yiannas tweeted. «I am honored to have served the American public, along with each and every one of you, for these past four years.»
Since December 2018, Yiannas has been involved in the development and implementation of policies related to food safety, including outbreak response, tracking of foodborne illness investigations, product recalls, and chain innovation. of supply.
Yiannas’ resignation announcement comes weeks after an expert panel issued a scathing report in his investigation of the FDA’s processes and organizational structure for its food program. The panel criticized, among other things, a «culture, structure and governance model» that makes the program less effective.
That investigation was ordered by FDA Commissioner Robert Califf in July, following mounting criticism that the agency had mishandled the formula crisis after illnesses were reported.
Yiannas’ letter of resignation, obtained by the Washington PostHe referred to inheriting a «decentralized structure» in the food program from the agency he operated, which he said «significantly impaired the FDA’s ability to operate as an integrated food team and protect the public.»
NBC News has reached out to Yiannas for comment.
In a statement, the FDA commended Yiannas for her service on the agency’s leadership team, saying her efforts to address key initiatives helped «create a safer, more digital and traceable food system for our country.»
«FDA remains committed to providing an update on steps to strengthen the Human Food Program by the end of January and additional updates on the organizational structure, including how Mr. Yiannas’ position responsibilities will be handled at the future, at the end of February.” an FDA spokesperson said in a statement.