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Two Women Being Mentioned as Candidates for USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety - Washington Report

President Trump and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue may be close to revealing who will be named, subject to U.S. Senate confirmation, the next USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety.  Two women are being mentioned for the U.S. government’s highest food safety job, according to a report from Food Safety News. They are:

Professor Mindy M. Brashears, who is the Director of the International Center for Food Industry at Texas Tech University. Her testimony as an expert witness for Beef Products Inc. last summer helped the Sioux City, Iowa food company negotiate at least $177 million from Disney-owned ABC News in historic agriculture disparagement litigation.

Brashears told the jury that BPI’s lean finely textured beef (LFTB) is meat, is beef, is nutritious and is entirely safe to eat. Many media organizations referred to it as “pink slime,” but BPI’s owners sued ABC News.

Veterinarian Christine Hoang is Assistant Director of the Division of Animal and Public Health of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

She earned her DVM and MPH through the University of Minnesota’s dual degree program She also holds certification in public health from the National Board of Public Health Examiners. Dr. Hoang is AVMA’s resident expert on antimicrobials and is a recipient of the Food Safety Veterinarian of the year award presented by the American Association of Food Safety Veterinarians.

In addition to the food safety post, the Trump administration also has yet to fill the position of USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. But Brashears and Hoang are more likely being considered for food safety. The other job handles the food stamps (SNAP) and other nutrition programs.

The Trump Administration has not expressed any public interest in nominating an Under Secretary for Food Safety. The Obama Administration left the post vacant for its last three years. Instead, it named the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s longtime administrator, Al Almanza, to perform the job duties of the post while he continued to work as FSIS’s chief administrator.

Almanza retired from government in July. He now heads global food safety for JBS S.A., the world’s second-largest food company.

Since Congress created the position in 1994, the Office of the USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety has been vacant almost as much as it is occupied. As a political appointee, the Under Secretary for Food Safety critical provides oversight to FSIS and is the hierarchy of career civil servants.

Two career civil servants have temporarily taken over Almanza’s jobs: Carmen Rottenberg is acting as the Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety and Paul Kiecker is acting FSIS administrator. Rottenberg also took over from Brian Ronholm, the other Obama administration appointee, as Deputy Under Secretary.

The last Senate-confirmed Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA was Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, who served from August 2010 to December 2013. Before that she was USDA’s chief medical officer, advising on a range of issues such as food safety, nutrition, and zoonotic diseases.