Mindy Brashears, the fifth in history confirmed USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety, said goodbye to her consumer, government and industry stakeholders January 14.

Her political appointment as the federal government’s top food safety official expired a week later on Inauguration Day, ending her two-year tenure, including 303 days as the Senate-confirmed under secretary for food safety. While waiting for the Senate to confirm her on March 23, 2020, she served from January 2019 as deputy under secretary.

Since Jan. 20, the new administration has had former FSIS boss Paul Kiecker filling in for the departed Brashears the Acting Under Secretary.   The appointment of Sandra Eskin as Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety is seen as significant because of her past work at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

However, the top food safety job remains vacant. No name has been submitted to the Senate.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) this week published its public calendar for the first two months of the new year, which included Brashear’s final days in power. 

When Brashears took the top food safety job, she was a professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agricultural Sciences and National Resources at Texas Tech University. Shortly before the November 2020 presidential election, TTU officials extended her leave for an additional year. The federal government paid her TTU salary while she was on leave.

And TTU has welcomed her back. Brashears was named as the Roth and Letch family Endowed Chair in Food Safety at Texas Tech University. 

Her final meetings with consumer and industry representatives were by teleconference because of coronavirus precautions.   

FSIS officials who joined Brashears in the consumer meeting were: FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker, Deputy Administrator Terri Nintemann, Acting Chief of Staff Atiya Khan, and Chief Operator Officer Jeremy Todd Reed.

Here is the invitation list for consumer representatives as posted by FSIS:

  • Teleconference Attendance
    • Angela Anandappa, Alliance for Advanced Sanitation
    • Mitzi Baum, Stop Foodborne Illness
    • Aaron Beczkiewicz, Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention
    • Patricia Buck, Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention
    • Zach Corrigan, Food and Water Watch
    • Chuck Czuprynski, UW-Madison Food Research Institute
    • Thomas Gremillion, Consumer Federation of America
    • Michael Hansen, Consumer Reports
    • Jaydee Hanson, Center for Food Safety
    • James Kincheloe, Center for Science in the Public Interest
    • Rachel Lyons, UFCW
    • Jaime Ragos, Stop Foodborne Illness
    • Julia Ranney, Center for Food Safety
    • Kali Kniel, University of Delaware
    • Bob Gravani, Cornell University
    • Barbara Chamberlin, New Mexico State University
    • Jeffrey Sindelar, Univesity of Wisconsin
    • Tanya Roberts, OSU-Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention
    • Kelly Nuckolls, NSAC
    • Barbara Kowalcyk, CFI

Joining Brashears for the separate teleconference with industry representatives were Kiecker, Nintemann, Khan, and Reed, And the list of likely particiaptes was as follows:

Industry Representatives 

  • Teleconference Attendance​
    • Andrew Bailey, National Pork Producers Council
    • Sarah Brandmeier, Consumer Brands Association
    • John Dillard, OFW Law
    • Brian Eyink, Hogan Lovells US LLP
    • Lindy Froebel, National Turkey Federation
    • Casey Gallimore, North American Meat Institute
    • Oscar Garrison, United Egg Producers
    • Rebecca, MAckey, NTF
    • KatieRose McCullough, North American Meat Institute
    • Ashley Peterson, NCC
    • Lisa Picard, National Turkey Federation
    • Brett Schwemer, OFW
    • Kathryn Simmons, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
    • Jolyda Swaim, Olsson Frank
    • Weeda Terman, Matz PC
    • Betsy Booren, Consumer Brands Association
    • Cheyenne McEndaffer, US Meat Export Federation
    • Allison Rivera, NCBA

On the Senate-confirmed list of Presidential-appointed previous Under-Secretaries are Dr. Elisabeth Hagen August 2010-December 2013; Dr. Richard Allen Raymond July 2005-January 2009; Elsa A. Murano October 2001-December 2004; and Catherine Woteki July 1997-January 2001.   

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