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After a Year of Waiting, a Plausible Nominee for Undersecretary for Food Safety

Dr. Elisabeth Hagen has been nominated to take the helm of the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) at the USDA, which oversees the safety of all meat, poultry and eggs, and where there has been a gaping hole waiting to be filled by a warm (and hopefully reform-minded, considering the past year’s track record on recalls) body since October 2008. Dr. Hagan is not new around the USDA, she is currently FSIS Chief Medical Officer, and served during the Bush Administration as a FSIS senior executive. If nominated, food borne illness litigator Bill Marler already has a list of needed reforms for Dr. Hagan and her team. Read more

Two-Thirds of Chicken Tested Harbor Dangerous Bacteria

Consumer Reports’ latest test of fresh, whole broilers bought in 22 states reveals that two-thirds of birds tested harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter, the leading bacterial causes of food-borne disease. The report reveals that organic “air-chilled” broilers were among the cleanest and that Perdue was found to be the cleanest of the brand-name chicken. Tyson and Foster Farms chickens were found to be the most contaminated. The report is available, free online (note, you have to click through the side bars to the left of the story) and in the January 2010 issue of the magazine. Read more

Why Dennis Wolff Would Be a Bad Choice for FSIS

On Saturday it was reported that Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff is stepping down from his position to “pursue opportunities in agriculture in the private sector.” This is not surprising, considering that PA governor Ed Rendell was looking to get rid of Wolff. But now that Wolff is hunting for a job, we thought it valuable here at Civil Eats to revisit why Dennis Wolff is not qualified for the role as head of the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the USDA — a vital position overseeing America’s meat, egg and dairy supply — where he has previously been floated as a candidate. Read more

Food Safety Versus Playing Nice: Filling the Post at FSIS

With the announcement today of a Class 1 (meaning could be deadly if eaten) recall of nearly 40,000 pounds of ground beef for E Coli contamination (Hat tip to Obamafoodorama), in addition to another 300,000 pounds of beef recalled last month, it grows ever more important that we have a person in charge of the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) at the USDA, which monitors meat, poultry and eggs. Why is this administration dithering? Guest blogger Tom Laskawy has some thoughts on the matter:

It really does seem like Tom Vilsack can’t find anyone to run the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard. There must be dozens of scientists and food safety experts who fit the bill. But this, of course, is the USDA we’re talking about — the poster child for regulatory capture, the phenomenon whereby a regulator acts almost entirely in the interests of its target industry rather than in the interests of the public. Read more