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New FDA Assistant Commissioner for food protection appointed

On May 1, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the appointment of Dr. David Acheson to the senior leadership role of Assistant Commissioner for Food Protection. Acheson will act as adviser to Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, Commissioner of Food and Drugs, as well as the direct liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Acheson will initially create a visionary strategy for food safety and defense to help the FDA prioritize safety and protection issues. Part of the strategy will include identifying challenges and opportunities in current global food safety and defense systems, and recommending solutions for current and future risk management.

The FDA's primary mission is to protect the public health by managing and regulating certain products as well as the food supply with the exception of meat, poultry and processed egg products, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"We have seen a rapid transformation of the food safety system due to advances in production technology, methods of distribution ad the globalization of food sources," said von Eschenbach. "Dr. Acheson's wealth of experience and knowledge of the science behind food protection will help the agency keep pace with this transformation in order to ensure that the safety and nutritional value of our food supply is second to none."

Acheson currently serves as chief medical officer and director of the Office of Food Defense Communication and Emergency Response at the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, where he provides risk assessments and manages investigations of food-borne outbreaks.

In a statement before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture on May 9, Acheson said, "To reduce the risk of food-borne illness at all points in the food chain, [the] FDA has adopted a 'farm-to-fork' approach to food safety. This approach systematically applies risk-management principles at each step as food moves from growers and producers to consumers."

Acheson also said the FDA is renewing its food safety efforts in three key areas: strengthening the scientific basis for the FDA's food safety program, enhancing effective partnerships and improving risk-based targeting of inspection resources.

A graduate of the University of London Medical School, UK, Acheson is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and the Infectious Disease Society of America. He is a former associate professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and at Tufts University, Boston.

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