Federal Eye: USDA Nears Decision on Food Safety Chief

The search for a head of the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) appears to have come down on two veterans of the food safety community: Caroline Smith–Dewall, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and former FSIS administrator Barbara J. Masters, who is currently senior policy adviser at Washington law firm Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC.

Food safety has been on the minds of many this month as a nationwide salmonella outbreak tied to peanut butter and peanut paste has caused serious illness and may have contributed to seven deaths. FSIS is only responsible however for the safety of the nation’s commercial meat, poultry and eggs, while the Food and Drug Administration accounts for the safety of all other foods.

The undersecretary for food safety is responsible for crafting the government’s policy and education programs on the issue; it is a political appointment that requires Senate confirmation.

Neither Masters nor Smith-Dewaal would comment on their conversations with the Obama administration. Their names emerged as leading candidates following conversations with food industry representatives, food safety veterans and union officials.

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