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Obama names food safety undersecretary

On Monday, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Elisabeth Hagen, MD, as undersecretary for food fafety at the Food Safety Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Hagen would serve with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“There is no more fundamental function of government than protecting consumers from harm, which is why food safety is one of USDA’s top priorities,” said Vilsack in a statement about the pending nomination.

For more than a year, the position of undersecretary for food safety at the USDA has been vacant. Last week, food safety advocates and politicians like Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) pressed the Obama administration to fill the position. The call to action was in response to a recall of 864,000 pounds of beef products from Montebello, Calif. –based Huntington Meat Packing that may have been contaminated with E. coli.

The FSIS is responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products are “safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged,” according to the FSIS mission statement. If confirmed, Hagen would oversee food inspectors.

Hagen is currently the USDA’s chief medical officer. Before joining the federal government in 2006, Hagen taught and practiced medicine in private and academic sectors. She holds an MD from Harvard Medical School.

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