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Food safety appointee has work cut out for her

UPDATE: After this blog entry was posted I heard from a press officer at the USDA, who pointed out that the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, which is to be headed by the new under secretary, does not oversee shell eggs or the other two foods I mention below; shell eggs, fruit pulp and alfalfa sprouts are all overseen by the FDA. The FSIS monitors meat and poultry safety. I apologize for the errors.

You know that feeling when you come home from vacation and realize the enormity of the workload that awaits you?

That's where I was when I got back from five days at the shoreline Friday afternoon: My beach buzz started to fizzle when I opened my inbox to find 635 e-mails, many of them requiring prompt action. (I gave up trying to keep up while I was away.)

But my workpile seemed less daunting when I considered what's waiting for Elisabeth Hagen, whom President Obama appointed Friday morning as USDA under secretary for food safety. Her new inbox includes 380 million potentially salmonella-tainted eggs, their contamination linked to hundreds of reported illnesses. It also includes some fruit pulp, which the FDA urgently warned Friday might be contaminated with a pathogen that causes typhoid fever. And, oh, there were those salmonella-infested alfalfa sprouts Thursday.

Let's wish Hagen luck in wading through her inbox and steering us toward a safer food supply. And while we're at it, let's hope Congress acts soon on that pending food-safety legislation.

In the meantime, good luck to you all in figuring out what to eat for dinner.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  August 23, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Food Safety and Recalls  
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Sorry to correct you, but in the wacky world of Federal food safety organization, the Under Secretary for Food Safety does not oversee the recalled eggs or fruit pulp; the Commissioner of Food and Drugs does (part of the Department of Health and Human Services). The Under Secretary for Food Safety oversees meat and poultry at the Agriculture Dept, but never fear -- if the egg is cracked and processed, she does oversee it. Don't even ask about fish safety (that's 3 different agencies). Clear as mud, I'm sure.

Posted by: wkhubbard | August 23, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Hate to be nitpicky, but as a writer you might want to know that "enormity" does not mean what you think it means, based on how you've used it here.

Posted by: dwinmtp | August 25, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

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