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Walmart’s Frank Yiannas Named FDA Deputy Commissioner

The influential food safety advocate to succeed Stephen Ostroff in key policy post
Photograph by WGB Staff

Frank Yiannas, the Walmart executive noted for championing new food safety measures, including a groundbreaking blockchain initiative improving fresh food traceability, has been named to a new role as deputy commissioner for food policy and response at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Yiannas has served as VP of food safety for Walmart since 2008 following 19 years at Walt Disney Co., where he was a director of safety and health.

At the FDA, Yiannas will succeed Dr. Stephen Ostroff, who will retire in January after serving in that role since May 2016, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.

Yiannas in a Twitter message of his own said his FDA role would come with a new title, but the “same mission—ensuring consumers have access to safe, affordable & sustainable food.”

At Walmart, Yiannas led an initiative with IBM to utilize blockchain to trace the supply chain for fresh foods, demonstrating it was capable of reducing traceability times from weeks under traditional methods to seconds, while reducing error and fraud that often corrupts or complicates such efforts. That could have lifesaving implications in foodborne illness events and save billions to the U.S. economy, Yiannas said. Other industry companies including Kroger have since joined into the project.

Last month, Walmart said all of its leafy green suppliers would be required to input digital, end-to-end traceability event information into the blockchain database within a year.

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