Michael R. Taylor’s surprise departure from the FDA as deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, announced in early March and effective June 1, 2016, comes at a particularly critical time for the agency, which is in final stages of implementing the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA). Taylor had been the primary point person at FDA responsible for FSMA, from overseeing the drafting of the regulations, to organizing outreach efforts with industry interest groups and other stakeholders, and to revising and finalizing the rules based on public comment and feedback.
“After almost seven years, this is the right time for me to move on to the next phase of my career,” Taylor wrote in a March 8, 2016 email to his FDA colleagues. “It’s not an easy decision. This job has been an honor and a pleasure for me and remains as challenging and satisfying as ever. I am privileged to work with the most talented, passionate, and resilient public servants on the planet and have learned enormously from them, as well as from our many stakeholders and partners elsewhere in government and in the consumer and industry communities.”
Taylor did not disclose his future activities, saying only that he planned to continue working in the food safety arena, focusing on those settings where people lack regular access to sufficient, nutritious, and safe food.
FDA announced that Stephen Ostroff, MD, would replace Taylor as deputy commissioner for foods. Dr. Ostroff had served as acting FDA commissioner until the appointment in February 2016 of Robert Califf, MD, to the top post. Dr. Ostroff joined FDA in 2013 as chief medical officer in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), where he served as senior public health advisor to Taylor. He became the agency’s chief scientist in 2014, responsible for leading and coordinating FDA’s cross-cutting scientific and public health efforts. “He knows our programs. And he is the perfect person to lead them into the future,” Taylor said of Dr. Ostroff in his March email to FDA colleagues.
Competence and Professionalism
Taylor has won praise from the food industry for competence and professionalism during his multi-year, multi-stakeholder effort to usher FSMA from concept to (mostly) final rules and implementation. “Mike Taylor has left a remarkable legacy as deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine,” says Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “Under his leadership, the agency successfully ushered in the most sweeping set of reforms to our nation’s food safety system in a generation through the implementation of FSMA. He worked openly and fairly with stakeholders on all sides of this important—and complicated—issue, and the result has been a strengthened food safety system that benefits all Americans,” Bailey told Food Quality & Safety magazine. “Steve Ostroff’s experience both with CFSAN and as acting FDA commissioner, and his expertise in food safety and nutrition, make him exactly the right person to follow Mike Taylor and to continue FDA’s important work in these areas,” she adds. “We look forward to working with him.”
Craig W. Henry, PhD, vice president for global business development, Americas, Decernis LLC, says he was “saddened” by Taylor’s departure “because there is still so much yet to do with the implementation of FSMA regulations.”