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Not a lot of outsider demand for meetings with “acting” agency heads

Al Almanza and Carmen Rottenberg are keeping the coffee hot at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) but they are not getting many takers during this transition in government period.

officecoffeestation_406x250Almanza, the acting deputy undersecretary for USDA’s food safety office who also doubles as FSIS administrator, and Rottenberg, who has moved up to FSIS deputy administrator after being chief of staff and COO at the agency, did host meetings on food safety initiatives of interest to the retail industry and another on whole bird testing.

Almanza and Rottenberg met with Hilary Thesmar with the Food Marketing Institutute on food safety in retail, and with Ashley Peterson from the National Chicken Council about whole bird testing. Both meetings were on March 3.

The FSIS bosses also attended the March 16 meeting along with several others from the agency, which invited public participation on preventing undeclared allergens. The agenda materials include a list of all non-USDA participants who were in attendance.

As part of its transparency program, FSIS lists meetings held by the Under Secretary and Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety and the Administrator and Deputy Administrator for FSIS with persons outside the federal government.

The number of such meetings is also off at the Food and Drug Administration. Both agencies are awaiting the arrival of permanent appointees of the Trump Administration to arrive and take over.

Acting FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Ostroff held only one meeting with someone outside the agency between March 5 and 18. And that was Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-ME, and congressional aide Kelliann Blazek on March 16. Subject of that meeting was listed as an update on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Ostroff is doing his second stint as acting FDA Commissioner. He’s been FDA’s deputy commissioner for food since Mike Taylor departed last June.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a confirmation hearing for Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s nomination as FDA Commissioner on Feb. 5. Committee action won’t occur until after the Senate recess on April 24.

Waiting Senate floor action is the nomination of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to be the nation’s 31st Secretary of Agriculture. That is expected shortly after lawmakers return from their vacations.

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