Posted by: tristar3research | March 15, 2009

New FDA Head has both Food Safety and Biodefense Expertise- Thanks!

Hats off to President Obama for finally putting pressure on food processors to stop contaminating the food we eat with antibiotics. Unfortunately, we have a serious problem already with “superbugs” already in our food supply. Gulp, go vegan!

Describing the U.S. government’s failure to inspect 95 percent of food-processing plants as ‘‘a hazard to the public health,’’ President Barack Obama promised to bolster and reorganize the nation’s fractured food-safety system. ‘‘In the end, food safety is something I take seriously, not just as your president, but as a parent,’’ Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. Mr. Obama announced on Saturday the creation of a Food Safety Working Group, which will include the secretaries of health and agriculture, to advise him on which laws and regulations need to be changed, to foster coordination across federal agencies, and to ensure that laws are enforced.

The new FDA appointee will be alert to the risks of contaminated produce. Here’s her profile:

The New Obama FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg: Dr. Margaret Hamburg, former head of the NYC Department of Health, and Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, current head of the Baltimore Department of Public Health, will be appointed by President Obama to head the FDA as Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, respectively. She and Dr. Sharfstein have a great deal in common. Both heads of health departments of major cities, both children of physicians, both in the Institute of Medicine – that will support the notion of their moving together in lock step to exert leadership over an agency that has been largely rudderless since the Clinton Administration.

A Biodefense Expert Finally – Ms. Hamburg’s involvement in the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Obama announced the new FDA commissioner: Margaret “Peggy” Hamburg: “a nationally and internationally recognized leader in public health and medicine, and an authority on global health, public health systems, infectious disease, bioterrorism and emergency preparedness,” according to the White House. “She served as the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s founding Vice President for the Biological Program. Before joining NTI, she was the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Prior to this, she served for six years as the Commissioner of Health for the City of New York and as the Assistant Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. ” And as deputy commissioner: Joshua “Josh” Sharfstein: Commissioner of Health for the City of Baltimore. “He has been recognized as a national leader for his efforts to protect children from unsafe jewelry and over-the-counter medication, and ensuring Americans with disabilities have access to prescription drugs,” the White House says. “He is a member of the Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice of the Institute of Medicine.”

And give credit to Nick Kristof at the NYTimes for pointing out the MSRA risks in our food.

Yet we continue to allow agribusiness companies to add antibiotics to animal feed so that piglets stay healthy and don’t get ear infections. Seventy percent of all antibiotics in the United States go to healthy livestock, according to a careful study by the Union of Concerned Scientists — and that’s one reason we’re seeing the rise of pathogens that defy antibiotics. These dangerous pathogens are now even in our food supply. Five out of 90 samples of retail pork in Louisiana tested positive for MRSA — an antibiotic-resistant staph infection — according to a peer-reviewed study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology last year.

MRSA already kills more than 18,000 Americans annually, more than AIDS does. MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. People often get it from hospitals, but as I wrote in my last column, a new strain called ST398 is emerging and seems to find a reservoir in modern hog farms. Research by Peter Davies of the University of Minnesota suggests that 25 percent to 39 percent of American hogs carry MRSA.

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