U.S. flag An official website of the United States government
  1. Home
  2. About FDA
  3. FDA History
  4. FDA Leadership: 1907 to Today
  5. David Kessler
  1. FDA Leadership: 1907 to Today

David A. Kessler

 Photo of David A Kessler, M.D.

David A. Kessler, M.D.

11/8/1990 - 2/28/1997*

Dr. David Kessler was born in New York in 1951. He graduated Amherst College in 1973, and then went on to earn a degree from Harvard Medical School (1973-1979). While at Harvard Dr. Kessler obtained a law degree from the University of Chicago (1977). From 1981 to 1984 he served as a consultant for the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, and from 1982 to 1984 he was special assistant to the president of Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Dr. Kessler then went on to serve as medical director of the Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine from 1984 until President Bush appointed him as FDA commissioner in December of 1990.

Dr. Kessler was sworn in on the same day that the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) was signed. Early in his tenure, he took action to protect consumers from misleading uses of the term "fresh" in conjunction with processed or partially processed orange juice and tomato products, gaining himself the nickname "Elliot Knessler." Kessler himself later appeared on major news and entertainment shows to unveil the agency's new "Nutrition Facts" food labels. Designed with bold new graphics, they were intended to make food labels more useful to the consumer and soon became one of the most recognizable graphic formats in the world.

Dr. Kessler announced his intention to step down in 1996, citing a desire to return to private life. He officially left his position February 28, 1997. He was subsequently named dean of Yale medical school, a post which became effective July, 1997.


*Michael A. Friedman, M.D., who joined FDA as deputy commissioner for operations in 1994, served as lead deputy commissioner while the post of commissioner was vacant from Feb. 28, 1997, to Nov. 30, 1998.

Back to Top