Since President Obama made his pick to be Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Food Safety, top officials at USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have not been meeting with many outsiders.
The President nominated Elisabeth Hagen, USDA’s chief medical officer, as the new Undersecretary for Food Safety, but she has yet to be confirmed by the slow-moving U.S. Senate. If confirmed, Hagen will take over as the top official at FSIS and as USDA’s top food safety official.
In the meantime, Jerold Mande, the deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, and Al Almanza, the top career service administrator, are running FSIS.
As part of its transparency program, FSIS on a periodic basis makes meetings with its top officials public. Meetings with the Under Secretary, Deputy Under Secretary, Office of Food Safety, the Administrator and his or her deputy with persons outside the federal government are supposed to be made public.
Since last week of January, however, not many meetings have been occurring. That’s when Obama nominated Hagen.
Almanza reports meeting with the National Restaurant Association’s Beth Johnson on Feb. 3; with AFA Foods’ Tim Biela and Olson Frank Weeda attorney Dennis Johnson on March 8; and John Munsell of the Foundation for Accountability in Regulatory Enforcement on March 10.
Beth Johnson used to work for FSIS. Biela and Dennis Johnson are well known industry figures in the food safety community, and Munsell is a critic of federal meat regulation from Miles City, MT.
Nor was Almanza really seeing that many outsiders before Hagen’s nomination. He led a federal delegation meeting of the Association of Meat Processors on Jan. 21, and on Jan. 6, he meet with the Humane Society’s Susan Prolman.
While Almanza reported a handful of meetings, Mande did not report any. The deputy Under Secretary has been a featured speaker at several conferences and events.