The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has appointed a new interim director for its Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), to keep up strong leadership at a time of heightened focus on food safety.
The move comes as a result of the departure of current CFSAN director Robert Brackett, who will leave FDA at the end of the month for a position as senior vice president and chief science and regulatory affairs officer with the trade body Grocery Manufacturers/Food Products Association (GMA/FPA).
Until a suitable permanent replacement is recruited, FDA has confided the role to David Acheson, who is currently assistant FDA commissioner for food protection, a post he will retain when he assumes the leadership role at CFSAN.
FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach said this week: "With the release of the Food Protection and Import Safety plans, now more than ever we must continue the strong leadership at CFSAN. That's why I have asked Dr David Acheson to serve as Acting Director until a permanent replacement is recruited."
FDA has recently stepped up its efforts to enhance the safety of the nation's food, following numerous high profile contamination cases and safety slips.
As a result, this year has seen a number of changes in food safety efforts.
Earlier this month, the US government announced wide sweeping plans to improve the safety of the nation's food supply, with measures including more stringent inspections, stronger penalties and mandatory recalls.
The two plans unveiled aim to prevent contamination in the domestic food chain (Food Protection Pan), and to ensure the safety of imported food (Import Safety Action Plan).
The FDA's Food Protection Plan is built around three core elements: prevention, intervention and response.
It will promote increased corporate responsibility, increased collaboration and communication with stakeholders, and a broad risk-based approach to food protection.
Under the plan, FDA will also be able to issue additional preventive controls for high-risk foods, accredit third parties for voluntary food inspections, increase access to food records during emergencies, and issue a mandatory recall if voluntary recalls are not effective.
The government's Import Safety Action Plan comprises short- and long-term recommendations to enhance the safety of the increasing volume of imports entering the United States.
Amongst measures outlined by the plan is the creation of a stronger certification process in exporting countries, a greater US presence overseas, and stronger penalties for those responsible for selling unsafe products.