Foden is joined by in-form Gloucester Rugby full-back Olly Morgan and experienced internationals Mike Tindall and Mark Cueto in the squad to prepare for the RBS 6 Nations kick off against Italy at Twickenham on February 7.
England Team Manager Johnson said: "The main thing with Ben is his ability - he is a fantastic player and we wanted to get him into the squad at some point. When Ben left Sale Sharks for Northampton Saints last summer we didn't think it was the right time to put him in but we do now.
"It's pretty unusual for a guy to have such a range of positions - Peter Richards can do it and Austin Healey could do it. They are valuable to clubs in terms of their versatility and to us in terms of putting a team together."
2003 Rugby World Cup winner Tindall and Cueto, who have 56 and 24 caps respectively, replace Olly Barkley and Dan Hipkiss, while Ugo Monye and Nick Easter take over from James Simpson-Daniel and Jordan Crane, who join the England Saxons squad.
Johnson said: "There have been some tough decisions on who has been left out. It's now about making sure we get the best out of this group and we perform at the level we can do. We have picked this group with a view of how we are going to play and what we want to do in the Six Nations."
Injury replacements for Wasps forwards Tom Palmer and Tom Rees, who are both in the squad but currently sidelined from competitive action, are being considered before England head to Portugal on January 25 for five days training.
However, Lewis Moody is back to fitness after missing November's Investec Challenge Tests through injury and Johnson added: "The whole squad will be boosted by Lewis, Mike (Tindall) and Mark (Cueto) being back. They are in there because they are in good form but it helps that they are hugely experienced as well."
There is also good news for Foden's Saints half back team mate Stephen Myler after the 24-year-old rugby league convert was named in the England Saxons squad, alongside newcomer Matt Mullan, the Worcester Warriors prop, and powerful Harlequins centre Jordan-Turner Hall.
Also included in the Saxons is 44-cap Leicester Tigers prop Julian White, back in the international fold after pulling out of the 2007 pre-World Cup squad to concentrate on his sheep and cattle farm.
ENGLAND SENIOR ELITE PLAYER SQUAD
Steve Borthwick (Saracens)
George Chuter (Leicester Tigers)
Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers)
Nick Easter (Harlequins)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
James Haskell (London Wasps)
Nick Kennedy (London Irish)
Lee Mears (Bath Rugby)
Lewis Moody (Leicester Tigers)
Luke Narraway (Gloucester Rugby)
Tom Palmer (London Wasps)
Tim Payne (London Wasps)
Tom Rees (London Wasps)
Simon Shaw (London Wasps)
Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks)
Matt Stevens (Bath Rugby)
Phil Vickery (London Wasps)
Delon Armitage (London Irish)
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Danny Cipriani (London Wasps)
Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks)
Harry Ellis (Leicester Tigers)
Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers)
Ben Foden (Northampton Saints)*
Riki Flutey (London Wasps)
Shane Geraghty (London Irish)
Ugo Monye (Harlequins)
Olly Morgan (Gloucester Rugby)
Jamie Noon (Newcastle Falcons)
Paul Sackey (London Wasps)
Mathew Tait (Sale Sharks)
Mike Tindall (Gloucester Rugby)