FDA food saftey appointment draws praise

By Tom Karst

(Dec. 3) The December retirement of Joseph Levitt, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and the appointment of Robert Brackett as his successor was met with more than passing interest from Donna Garren.

Garren, vice president of scientific and technical affairs for the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, Washington, D.C., said Brackett was on the graduate committee for Garren’s doctoral work at the University of Georgia.

“We go way back. He is one person responsible for me getting my degree,” she said.

Garren said Brackett, who will take on the new duties Jan. 1, has always been a friend to the produce industry. She anticipates that will continue.

“I’m glad he is there. I think it will mean a lot for the industry,” she said.

Levitt is leaving the FDA after 25 years to become a partner in the law firm of Hogan & Hartson LLP. His last day at FDA will be Dec. 31.

In his resignation letter, Levitt said the move to the law firm would allow him to continue to stay involved with FDA-related issues while achieving financial security for his family.

During his six years as director for the FDA’s food safety and nutrition center, Levitt said the center has reduced the incidence of foodborne illness, enhanced security of the U.S. food supply and began to revitalize the center’s applied nutrition program.

“As a staff attorney, commissioner’s chief of staff, deputy center director, and center director, Joe has clearly had a unique and lasting impact on the health of Americans,” said commissioner of food and drugs Mark McClellan said in a Dec. 1 news release.

Since June 2001, Brackett has been in charge of food safety and security at the FDA’s food safety and nutrition center, where he has been responsible for food safety policy issues and for coordinating new food safety programs. In addition, he represents the center on counter-terrorism efforts and co-chairs the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods — all while maintaining an active research program on foodborne pathogens.