Obama’s edict for FDA pick: Act on food safety

Source of Article:  http://www.ajc.com/services/content/printedition/2009/03/14/obamatalks0314.html

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Washington —- President Barack Obama today is expected to announce a new Food and Drug Administration commissioner and plans to remake the agency in the wake of the national salmonella crisis that has its roots in Georgia.

In his weekly address to the nation this morning, Obama plans to announce the appointment of Dr. Margaret “Peggy” Hamburg, a former New York City health commissioner, as commissioner of the FDA.

In her new role, Hamburg is expected to streamline how the FDA works with other food safety agencies and also find ways to make sure the FDA responds more quickly to outbreaks like the nationwide salmonella crisis linked to Peanut Corp. of America’s plant in Blakely.

“In recent years, we’ve seen a number of problems with the food making its way to our kitchen tables,” Obama said in prepared remarks in advance of his weekly Web and radio address.

“In 2006, it was contaminated spinach. In 2008, it was salmonella in peppers and possibly tomatoes. And just this year, bad peanut products led to hundreds of illnesses and cost nine people their lives —- a painful reminder of how tragic the consequences can be when food producers act irresponsibly and government is unable to do its job.”

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this week, Obama said he wanted the federal government to do a better job of monitoring food processors and find ways to identify potential food safety problems more quickly.

Along with announcing Hamburg’s appointment, Obama is planning to announce the formation of a new Food Safety Working Group that will coordinate with other agencies and senior officials to examine and upgrade existing food safety laws and coordinate food safety regulation between different agencies.

He said the government will invest in the FDA to substantially increase the number of food inspectors and modernize food safety labs.





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