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FDA to hire ‘chief outbreak director’

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 11-Feb-2011

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said it is seeking someone to fill the newly created position of chief outbreak director, putting one person in charge of foodborne illness outbreaks, the FDA has said.

The chief outbreak director will lead a 40 person team dedicated to dealing with foodborne illness outbreaks and will report to deputy commissioner for food safety Michael Taylor, the agency said.

Among other responsibilities related to the agency’s response to foodborne illness outbreaks, one of the key functions of the new role will be to decide whether it is necessary to order a food recall – a new authority granted to the FDA with the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law at the beginning of the year.

Currently, the FDA brings together people from different departments to respond to foodborne illness outbreaks. The new multidisciplinary team will function as part of the FDA and will work in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local public health authorities and the food industry.

“In certain outbreaks there's a need to kind of drill down deep," said Jeff Farrar, associate commissioner for food protection, in an interview with the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. "We go into food processing facilities, do our investigation, turn over everything we can to look for what caused it. Often we don't find the smoking gun. In certain outbreaks there's a real need to assemble the right team, be it water or wildlife experts, and look intensively in the processing facilities and the farm to find where the pathogen came into contact with the food. So the chief medical officer has to identify which outbreaks rise to that level of concern and need."

The chief outbreak director/chief medical officer position commands a salary of $123,758 to $155,500 a year, and is open to US citizens with a medical qualification, either as a doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy.

The recruitment notice is online here .

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