President Obama has nominated former New York City Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Joshua Sharfstein, MD, the health commissioner for Baltimore, was named the principal deputy commissioner.
The announcement was made March 14 during the president’s weekly radio address. Obama described the government’s failure to inspect 95 percent of the food processing plants and warehouses as “a hazard to public health.”
“It is unacceptable,” Obama said. “And it will change under the leadership of Dr. Margaret Hamburg. From her research on infectious disease at the National Institutes of Health to her work on public health at the Department of Health and Human Services to her leadership on biodefense at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Dr. Hamburg brings to this vital position not only a reputation of integrity but a record of achievement in making Americans safer and more secure.”
Obama said he is creating a Food Safety Working Group, which will be chaired by the secretaries of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. He said the group will coordinate with other agencies and senior officials to advise him on improving coordination throughout the government, examining and upgrading food safety laws, and enforcing laws that will keep Americans safe.
The president announced two other food safety measures.
“As part of our commitment to public health, our Agriculture Department is closing a loophole in the system to ensure that diseased cows don’t find their way into the food supply,” Obama said. “And we are also strengthening our food safety system and modernizing our labs with a billion dollar investment, a portion of which will go toward significantly increasing the number of food inspectors, helping ensure that the FDA has the staff and support they need to protect the food we eat.”