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Bush Nominates Food Safety Chief

July 10, 2001

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ A microbiologist who advocates the use of irradiation to kill food-borne pathogens was nominated by President Bush on Tuesday to oversee the Agriculture Department’s food-safety programs.

Elsa Murano, 41, is director of the Center for Food Safety at Texas A&M University, where she has done research on a variety of pathogens, including E. coli O157:H7, and methods for destroying them, including irradiation.

If her nomination is confirmed by the Senate, she would become USDA’s undersecretary for food safety.

USDA is responsible for ensuring the safety of meat and poultry products and shares regulation of eggs with the Food and Drug Administration. FDA regulates other foods.

``We really feel strongly about food safety and we wanted to make sure we had a qualified person for this position,″ Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said.

The department is considering new testing standards for meat and processed meats, such as hot dogs, as well as beef and poultry.

Carol Tucker Foreman, a prominent consumer advocate who oversaw USDA’s food-safety programs during the Carter administration, praised Murano’s nomination, saying she has shown concern about reducing the number of food poisonings.

``This is the government’s highest-ranking food safety position and one of the most challenging,″ said Foreman, who is with the Consumer Federation of America.

Murano did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday but she has in past expressed confidence that consumers will eventually overcome their misgivings about having food irradiated. ``If consumers realize what you are doing is applying energy to food, and realize the food will not be changed in any way, they will accept it,″ she said.

The government approved the use of irradiation on meat last year and is expected to decide soon whether to allow it for luncheon meats, hot dogs and other precooked meat products.


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