In a commentary published on Feedstuffs, former U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) Undersecretary for Food Safety Richard Raymond encourages Sonny Perdue, President Trump’s pick for Secretary of the USDA, to select Michael Doyle for the food safety post. Doyle is Regents professor of food microbiology at the University of Georgia and founded the university’s Center for Food Safety in 1991.
Raymond, who was undersecretary for food safety during President George W. Bush’s second term, stresses the importance of the role in his letter to Perdue. “President Obama evidently did not think the position was too important as that chair sat empty for nearly five of the eight years he was in office,” wrote Raymond. “He got lucky. He did not have a Westland Hallmark Meat Co. recall, the largest in U.S. history … He did not have the first cow found dead from Mad Cow Disease, he did not have the Jack in the Box disaster, and he did not see any human deaths from ‘bird flu.’” He goes on to warn that Perdue “won’t be so lucky. History repeats itself. You need someone to prevent disasters, and to respond to them when necessary.”
In his endorsement for Doyle, Raymond urges Perdue, if confirmed, to quickly move to fill the food safety position, which, as of 1993, became a Presidential appointment requiring Senate confirmation. Since 1993, there have only been four appointments to the position. “That means someone was at the job just 13 out of those 24 years,” wrote Raymond. “Not acceptable. It is a tough job; one you don’t want to have to fill in for.”
Given that Senate Agriculture Committee is still pulling together background information on Perdue before setting the date for a confirmation hearing, which is rumored to be mid-to-late February, and confirmation of an undersecretary for food safety could take another six months, it’s looking like this important position will remain vacant for a while.