Vilsack speaks out on delay naming food safety chief (Updated)

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By Rita Jane Gabbett on 6/8/2009


Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told reporters the unusual delay in naming an undersecretary for food safety is due at least in part to the Obama administration's commitment to avoid hiring former lobbyists.

That restriction and thoroughly vetting all the candidates has taken some time, Vilsack told reporters late last week after appearing at a Senate budget hearing, according to AgWeek.

Nearly five months after the Obama administration took office, there is no indication when a name will emerge. What is clear, however, is that the new undersecretary will have plenty on his or her plate. While congressional food safety legislation is being debated on Capitol Hill, the White House working group on food safety has launched a series of listening sessions to help form administration policy.

With the lobbyist restriction, the next undersecretary might well come from academia. Dr. Mike Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, and Mike Taylor, a research professor in the department of health policy at George Washington University, were two of the names recently twirling around Washington, one agricultural lobbyist told Meatingplace.

Doyle, however, has declined the position. In a May 29 letter, he thanked Vilsack for the invitation to serve, but declined, saying he preferred to continue his role at the University of Georgia.

(Editor's note: Watch for the June issue of Meatingplace In Print for more on this topic and a look at the Obama Administration's early days and what they portend for the meat industry.)

(Update adds Doyle declining the position.)


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