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Joseph A. Levitt Retires as Director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; Dr. Robert E. Brackett to Succeed Him

Commissioner of Food and Drugs Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., today announced the retirement of Joseph A. Levitt, Esq., as Director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), and the appointment of Dr. Robert E. Brackett as his successor.

“As a staff attorney, Commissioner’s chief of staff, deputy center director, and center director, Joe has clearly had a unique and lasting impact on the health of Americans,” said Dr. McClellan. “With a career-long commitment to improving America’s health and strengthening FDA, Joe leaves our food and nutrition center as a world class organization, ready to meet the challenges ahead.”

Levitt’s tenure as center director at CFSAN was marked by continuing productivity increases, as a result of innovative and clear management and a rigorous process for setting and achieving priorities. Since 1998, CFSAN has strengthened its capacity to carry out its mission by recruiting a cadre of scientific and regulatory experts, who have helped position the center to deal more effectively with the many public health challenges it faces.

The experts recruited by CFSAN in recent years include Dr. Brackett, who has been crucial to strengthening the center’s scientific expertise in food safety, and he has played a major leadership role in its counter-terrorism program.

“As our food and nutrition center faces more challenges and responsibilities than ever - as well as better science to meet them - FDA is indeed fortunate to be able to call upon Dr. Bob Brackett,” Dr. McClellan added. “As CFSAN’s Director of Food Safety and Security, and with a distinguished background in food microbiology, Bob is the ideal leader to make sure that the safety and security of the U.S. food supply sets the standard for the world. As a proven manager with a knack for applying scientific insights to practical problems, Bob is also the ideal leader to help consumers improve their health through their dietary choices.”

Since June 2001, Dr. Brackett has been in charge of food safety and security at CFSAN, where he has been responsible for food safety policy issues and for coordinating new food safety programs. In addition, he represents CFSAN on counter-terrorism efforts and co-chairs the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods - all while maintaining an active research program on food borne pathogens.

Dr. Brackett joined FDA in March 2000, serving as senior microbiologist in CFSAN’s Office of Plant and Dairy Foods and Beverages. Before that, he was a professor of food science and technology in the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia. His research has focused on the effects of processing and packaging on the growth and survival of food borne pathogens, and on the development of methods for detection and enumeration of food borne bacterial pathogens, the behavior of food borne pathogens in refrigerated foods, and the detoxification of aflatoxins, toxic substances which occur naturally in certain foods under particular growing conditions.

Dr. Brackett was born in Wisconsin and received a B.S. degree in bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin. He also earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in food microbiology from the same university. He has published more than 200 articles in scientific journals and has made numerous presentations at national and international scientific meetings as well as before industry groups.

The many major achievements of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition under Mr. Levitt’s leadership include:

· Transforming FDA’s food safety mission to address new security threats, through implementation of Bioterrorism legislation to make the U.S. food supply even safer and more secure, and through working closely with industry and public health and security agencies to strengthen the U.S. food security system in the wake of the September 11th attacks;

· Enhancing FDA’s “applied nutrition” program, including new guidance and regulatory oversight for health claims for conventional foods, requiring new “trans fat” information on the food label, and taking further steps to help consumers use their diet to prevent obesity and improve their health;

· Expanding FDA’s food safety program to control disease-causing organisms by creating newer surveillance systems, stronger prevention programs and faster response to outbreaks of food borne illness. During his tenure, the incidence of food borne illness from the leading pathogens decreased significantly.

· Strengthening FDA’s food and nutrition program by successfully moving from CFSAN’s outdated facility near the Mall in Washington, D.C., to a state-of-the art laboratory and administrative facility in the new Harvey E. Wiley building in College Park, Md.

Mr. Levitt joined FDA in 1978 as a staff attorney in the office of the general counsel. In the 1980’s, while in the Office of the Commissioner, he was heavily involved in the “IND/NDA Rewrites” and “Treatment IND” regulations designed to streamline the new drug review process and provide promising new therapies to desperately ill patients. Later, he helped launch FDA’s food labeling initiative, and in 1990 he functioned as the acting deputy commissioner.

From November 1991 until January 1998, he served as deputy director for regulations and policy in FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, where he was involved in all facets of device regulation and played a key role in implementing new mammography legislation.

Mr. Levitt will become a partner in the law firm of Hogan & Hartson, LLP. His last day at FDA will be December 31, 2003. Dr. Brackett will assume his new duties January 1, 2004.


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