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FDA’s former top food cop now focused on food security

Opinion

Editor’s note: Mike Taylor, who just left his post as deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, sent this message to friends and colleagues June 8 and granted Food Safety News permission to reprint it here.

Since I announced my plans to leave FDA, a number of you have asked what I will do next.  With my departure from FDA now complete, I’d like to let you know my plans.

Mike Taylor (right) took his team on the road to collect feedback on proposed rules mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act. He tramped through fields, toured packing and processing plants and visited operations directly related to food production, including a composting operation (shown here) where he got up close and personal with the staff and the stuff they manage.

Mike Taylor (right) took his team on the road to collect feedback on proposed rules mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act. He tramped through fields, toured packing and processing plants and visited operations directly related to food production, including a composting operation (shown here) where he got up close and personal with the staff and the stuff they manage.

My passion remains food safety but also food security, which means people having ready access on a sustainable basis to the safe and nutritious food they need to thrive. Food security in Africa was the focus of much of my work in the decade before I rejoined FDA in 2009, and I want to make food security in the broad sense of the term, in Africa and elsewhere, a major focus of my future work. My experience at FDA over the last seven year has broadened my understanding, however, of what it will take for the global food system to succeed in meeting human needs.

We all know how strongly the public and private spheres intersect — and sometimes clash — around food policy, but perhaps the strongest lesson I learned through our work enacting and implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act

Mike Taylor

Mike Taylor

is how much we can achieve when the fundamental interests of consumers, industry and government are aligned, as I believe they largely are when it comes to the broad goals of food security and the long-term success of the food system. I will be seeking opportunities to apply that lesson, and contribute to expanding public-private collaboration on food security, as a senior fellow at Freedman Consulting LLC, in Washington D.C.

The founder of this firm, Tom Freedman, is a long-time friend and colleague and one of the most public spirited and effective people I know. He has worked for many years at the intersection of policy and politics, and his firm engages in what I think of as social policy entrepreneurship, working with a wide range of foundation, non-profit and corporate entities to solve problems. I am eager to work with Tom and his team.

I will also be spending time in the coming months as an advisor to the Aspen Institute’s Food and Society Program. Led by Corby Kummer, a distinguished food writer and thought leader, this program brings people together to find solutions to food system problems. I look forward to collaborating with Corby and the Aspen Institute’s many partners as they address food system challenges and pursue opportunities to better meet the needs of consumers and society at large.

I am excited about this next phase.

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