Thursday, August 19, 2010

President Obama Announces Recess Appointment For USDA Food Safety Chief

380 million recalled eggs can't be ignored...President fills USDA post vacant since December 2008
As he blasted Senate Republicans for "playing politics" and obstructing the confirmation process, today President Obama announced recess appointments for four nominees to fill administration posts. One of the appointments is critical for food: Dr. Elisabeth Hagen as Under Secretary for USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, which monitors meat, poultry and eggs. Dr. Hagen has been awaiting Senate confirmation since January; she sailed through her Senate committee hearing, yet remained unconfirmed.

“At a time when our nation faces so many pressing challenges, I urge members of the Senate to stop playing politics with our highly qualified nominees, and fulfill their responsibilities of advice and consent,” President Obama said in a statement issued by the White House. “Until they do, I reserve the right to act within my authority to do what is best for the American people.”

FSIS has had no leader since December of 2008, and Dr. Hagen's appointment comes as 380,000,000 eggs are being recalled nationwide due to Salmonella contamination, with almost 2,000 illnesses from the strain of salmonella linked to the eggs being reported between May and July, according to CDC.

The White House issued the announcement after the President arrived for vacation on Martha's Vineyard, noting that the four recess appointees have waited an average of 303 days for Senate action. The President has made a total of 22 recess appointments, including the four announced today. Kudos to the President for taking action.

Dr. Hagen is an infectious disease specialist, and is currently the USDA’s Chief Medical Officer, serving as an advisor to USDA mission areas on a wide range of human health issues. Prior to her current post, she was a senior executive in the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), where she played a key role in developing and executing the agency’s scientific and public health agendas.

In a statement issued by USDA, Secretary Tom Vilsack weighed in, lauding Dr. Hagen.

"There is no higher priority at USDA than ensuring that Americans have access to a safe and healthy food supply," Sec. Vilsack said, and added that Dr. Hagen's background will enable her "to successfully lead efforts to achieve the objectives of President Obama's Food Safety Working Group."

The three other recess appointments are for Maria del Carmen Aponte, for Chief of Mission, Republic of El Salvador; Winslow Sargeant, for Chief Counsel of Advocacy, Small Business Administration; and Richard Sorian, nominee for Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services.

More on the egg recall
From Marler Blog: Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa, is "voluntarily" issuing a nationwide recall of eggs it had shipped since May 19 to food wholesalers, distribution centers and foodservice companies in California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Those companies distribute nationwide, reselling eggs under various brand names: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps.

The affected cartons - which still may be in stores, restaurants and homes - come in varying sizes and carry plant numbers P1026, P1413 and P1946, followed by a date code ranging from 136 to 225. The stamps with the date codes and plant numbers can be found on the end of the egg carton.

*Getty photo. Updated.