While the Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price says we can expect the next Food and Drug Administrator commissioner to be named soon, significant meetings held by designated FDA policy makers with persons outside the executive branch continue to draw down.

Acting FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Ostroff has so far reported on three meetings with outsiders during February. He met Feb. 10 with Martin Slayne, global head of scientific and regulatory affairs, and five others from the Hershey Co.

yearOFrooster_406x250And on Feb. 15, enough produce growers from throughout North America descended upon FDA headquarters in College Park, MD, to pack Ostroff’s office. The subject of the meeting was to no surprise: produce.

Susan T. Mayne, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at FDA , also kept the agency’s lines in the water by attending the Institute of Food Technology’s Food Policy Impact 2017 meeting in Washington D.C. on Feb. 2. She also attended the U.S. Rice Annual Government Affairs committee meeting on Feb. 15.

Secretary Price says HHS, which houses FDA and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  among other units, is awaiting action on 18 presidential appointments that require Senate approval. He hinted Monday that an FDA commissioner appointment is awaiting only the FBI background and financial checks and the name will be make public very soon.

The former FDA deputy commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, is likely to get that appointment, according to numerous Washington D.C. observers. In a radio interview Monday, Price said he expects “folks” will be pleased with President Trump’s appointee.

Also waiting for his new boss to get through Senate confirmation is Al Almanza, who is both the acting deputy Under Secretary of Food Safety and the administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

On Feb. 14, Allison Cooke and Dr. Kathy Simmons, both from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association met with Almanza about foreign beef inspection. On the following day, Almanza met with a delegation from Tyson Foods about “recruiting of company personnel and industry/FSIS allegations and due process.”

Coming up quickly is the two month anniversary of President Trump nominating former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as secretary of agriculture. Yet, the Senate Agriculture Committee has yet to schedule a hearing, and nobody seems to have a definitive reason why. Could be they’re waiting on paperwork to arrive from the White House. Could be they’re waiting on the financial vetting. Could there’s a backlog of FBI background checks.

Nobody who really knows is saying, but the delay is becoming very curious.

Behind Perdue are two handfuls of assistant and deputy under secretary appointments at USDA that also require Senate approval, including the long vacant job of Under Secretary for Food Safety.

For the moment this much is clear. There are fewer meetings with outsiders and those calling into the agencies report it’s hard to know who to leave a message with — and don’t expect a callback.

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