Natural Foods Merchandiser

Hamburg confirmed as FDA commissioner

The Senate unanimously confirmed Dr. Margaret Hamburg to lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week, making her the second woman in the agency’s 103-year history to take the helm.

Hamburg is a bioterrorism expert who served as New York City’s health commissioner since 1991. She is joined by Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, who will act as deputy commissioner.

According to the FDA website, the agency currently oversees “the manufacture, import, transport, storage, and sale of $1 trillion worth of goods annually” ranging from foods, medicines and medical devices to cosmetics, radiation-emitting appliances—such as microwaves, and feed and drugs for pets and farm animals.

Loren Israelson, executive director of the United Natural Products Alliance, said that Hamburg and Sharfstein make “an interesting one-two punch not commonly seen in FDA nominations.”

Both are young, dynamic and have a very strong public health background, Israelson said. “She is thought to have strong management skills, the ability to communicate to a wide range of audiences, and she has had prior experience at [the Department of Health and Human Services]—all requisites for an FDA commissioner. I believe she will be seen as fresh air by both insiders and outsiders.”

“In essence, it looks like we will have a very active commissioner and deputy commissioner, both fully engaged on a range of issues,” Israelson said.

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