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FDA to Hire Chief Outbreak Director

The position isn’t being advertised as “outbreak czar,” but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is looking for a chief medical officer who will lead a team permanently assigned to handle foodborne illness outbreaks.

The FDA posted its recruitment notice online this week. The new hire will report directly to Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods.

In an interview with the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy’s CIDRAP News, Taylor said the new position has been under consideration for some time, but fits with the direction the FDA is heading since the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

“It’s connected in the sense that the new law and a lot of things going on at FDA are all about strengthening our ability to do science-based prevention when it comes to foodborne illness,” he told CIDRAP.

In response to outbreaks, the agency now temporarily assembles people from various FDA offices. Under the new system, a full-time, multidisciplinary team of about 40 people will work within the agency and in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local public health authorities and the food industry, Taylor said.

The outbreak director’s primary responsibility will be to head that team and be the “point person” on the scientific judgments behind whether to order a recall–one of FDA’s expanded powers under the new law–although the ultimate decision to recall potentially contaminated food will rest with the FDA commissioner.

In addition to handling outbreaks of foodborne disease, the team will work with its CDC and state partners on surveillance and detection, and in the aftermath of outbreaks review to see how prevention efforts can be improved.

Jeff Farrar, the FDA’s associate commissioner for food protection, told CIDRAP it is often difficult to find “the smoking gun” in an outbreak, so the chief medical officer/outbreak director will help decide whether there’s a need for the outbreak team to more closely scrutinize a processing facility or farm to determine how food became contaminated.

The position requires a medical degree (doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy) and five years of residency training or equivalent experience and training. The salary range is $123,758 to $155,500 a year.

© Food Safety News
  • Here is another marvelous example of the foolishness of the FDA, the power of organized medicine and the ignorance of many food safety advocates.
    The skills needed in this position are those of an epidemiologist and warrior, not an MD or DO. S/he must have a total commitment to ascertaining what truly happened. Thus, we need an epidemiologist like Bill Keene of OR or David Sweat of NC.
    Not only does this person need to think clearly, but s/he must also have the courage to direct appropriate action wherever it might lead, speak ONLY the full truth as the his/her team understands it and admit errors when they occur. Then, there would be a genuine chance of accountability in this extremely important area.
    For many years, the FDA has had astonishing powers in this area and the FSMA gives it additional ones. Unfortunately, as well illustrated by the 2006 spinach, 2008 tomato/pepper and 2010 egg fiascos, the leadership of the FDA (e.g., David Acheson, MD) has shown neither the wisdom nor the courage to use those powers wisely.

  • Here is another marvelous example of the foolishness of the FDA, the power of organized medicine and the ignorance of many food safety advocates.
    The skills needed in this position are those of an epidemiologist and warrior, not an MD or DO. S/he must have a total commitment to ascertaining what truly happened. Thus, we need an epidemiologist like Bill Keene of OR or David Sweat of NC.
    Not only does this person need to think clearly, but s/he must also have the courage to direct appropriate action wherever it might lead, speak ONLY the full truth as the his/her team understands it and admit errors when they occur. Then, there would be a genuine chance of accountability in this extremely important area.
    For many years, the FDA has had astonishing powers in this area and the FSMA gives it additional ones. Unfortunately, as well illustrated by the 2006 spinach, 2008 tomato/pepper and 2010 egg fiascos, the leadership of the FDA (e.g., David Acheson, MD) has shown neither the wisdom nor the courage to use those powers wisely.