Since Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue named Mindy Brashears Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, the former Texas Tech University food safety professor is finding herself in demand.
Perdue named Brashears to the post on Jan. 28 so she could work at USDA while continuing to wait for the U.S. Senate to confirm her presidential nomination as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety.
The Secretary of Agriculture named Brashears as Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety after the 115th Congress ended without the Senate giving her a confirmation vote. The White House has resubmitted her nomination to the 116th Congress.
And while she waits for that Senate vote, Brashears is finding herself in demand.
According to the public calendar for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Eric Schulze with Memphis Meats was the first to meet with Deputy Under Secretary Brashears. That meeting on Feb. 26, which included FSIS Administrator Carmen Rottenberg, was about food products derived from cells of livestock and poultry.
On the same day, Brashears and Shawna Newsome, chief of staff for the Office of Food Safety, met with Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) representatives about scientific communication efforts.
Brashears, Rottenberg, and FSIS Assistant Administrator Roberta Wagner were involved in a “meet and greet” on Feb. 27 with Danielle Beck and Colin Woodall from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).
And on Feb.28, Brashears and Deputy FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker met with Chandler Keys with the Keys Groups and Kendra Waldbusser with Pilgrim’s Pride. “Foreign Material Guidance” was the topic.
On March 1, Brashears, Rottenberg and several others at FSIS met with Cargill’s Angie Siemens about “Salmonella Standards.”
Later in that month, Brashears joined Rottenberg and Kiecker in separate open meetings first for consumers and then for industry representatives.
No meetings with persons outside the federal government were reported for January and the calendar of meetings for April has not yet been released.
Before being nominated as Under Secretary for Food Safety, Brashears was professor of Food Safety and Public Health and Director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University. She left a research program that focused on improving food safety standards in order to improve public health.
She is highly acclaimed for her work, which evaluated interventions in pre- and post-harvest environments and on the emergence of antimicrobial drug resistance in animal feeding systems. The work she led resulted in commercialization of a pre-harvest feed additive that reduces E. coli and Salmonella in cattle.
Brashears also led international research tams to Mexico, Central and South America to improve food safety and security and to set up sustainable agricultrual systems in impoverished areas. She is past Chair of the National Alliance for Food Safety and Security and USDA’s multi-state research group.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry unanimously recommended Brashears nomination to the full Senate last Dec. 5. The committee this year has yet to take any action on the Brashears nominate.
There’s not been a White House appointed and Senate-confirmed Under Secretary for Food Safety for more than five years.
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