After years of the Senate confirming no one for the top U.S. food safety post, Dr. Mindy Brashears was confirmed by the Senate to serve as undersecretary of agriculture for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Her nomination was announced in 2018, and she was favorably reported out of the Senate Agriculture Committee with bipartisan support on May 14, 2019. However, without approval by the full Senate, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue had placed her in the role of deputy undersecretary of food safety for the agency in January 2019, because that post didn’t require full Senate approval.
“I am pleased the Senate has acted on Dr. Brashears’ nomination to continue leading food safety efforts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) said. “She has proven to be a capable leader, and I’m confident she’ll continue to get the job done.”
Earlier in March, 10 agriculture groups urged Senate leadership to swiftly vote on Brashears's nomination. Brashears is "eminently qualified to fulfill the critical role of overseeing the safety of the nation's meat, poultry and egg products," the groups wrote. "For more than five years, USDA has not had a confirmed undersecretary in the essential mission area of food safety. ... Without a doubt, we believe Dr. Brashears is the best choice to fulfill this function," the groups wrote.
Prior to her nomination, Brashears served as a professor of food safety and public health at Texas Tech University. She is widely recognized as an international leader in pre-harvest and post-harvest environments and their relation to foodborne pathogens. Additionally, Brashears has led global efforts to improve food safety and ensure food security in underserved areas.
In a letter signed by key agricultural groups in August 2019, they said: “Without a doubt we believe Dr. Brashears is the best choice to fulfill this function. Her unique background and experience regarding food safety issues is unparalleled. Moreover, her work since assuming her duties as deputy undersecretary for food safety engaging with the regulated community, small and very small processing facilities and consumer groups have shown her leadership on these issues.”
The undersecretary for food safety position was last filled in 2013 by Dr. Elisabeth Hagen.