“I have known Mike since 2004 and truly appreciate and thank him for his ongoing commitment to protecting the public while engaging all stakeholders for input and guidance,” Dr. Henry says. “He has served the U.S. government well over the years. As an industry professional, I find Mike to be fair and sincerely engaged to improve food safety programs and processes for the benefit of the public as well as the multiple industries supplying the highest quality food products in our global market,” Dr. Henry told Food Quality & Safety.
“Mike Taylor’s legacy has been to push FSMA from passage into law through rules and regulations,” comments David Acheson, MD, founder and CEO of The Acheson Group and a former FDA associate commissioner for foods. “This has been no small accomplishment. The next step is to lead it into full implementation. That’s the toughest part because that’s where the rubber meets the road,” he tells Food Quality & Safety.
“Stephen Ostroff is a physician who understands food science and public health. I like that. That’s exactly what this position needs now,” Dr. Acheson adds. “He has the credibility but he will also need to have the leadership and vision to rally the troops to bring FSMA into full implementation.”
Prior to joining FDA in 2013, Dr. Ostroff served as deputy director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the CDC, where he was also acting director of the agency’s Select Agent Program. While at CDC he focused on emerging infectious diseases, food safety, and coordination of complex outbreak response, according to his official bio. He retired from the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service at the rank of rear admiral (assistant surgeon general).
Dr. Ostroff also served as director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and acting physician general for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and has consulted internationally on public health projects in South Asia and Latin America. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine in 1981 and completed residencies in internal medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and preventive medicine at CDC.
Career in Public and Private Sectors
Taylor’s long career in government, industry, and academia has earned him praise as well as criticism. After receiving a law degree from the University of Virginia, Taylor joined FDA as a staff attorney in 1976. In 1981 he joined the law practice of King & Spalding, eventually becoming head of the firm’s food and drug law practice, with Monsanto being one of his clients. He returned to FDA from 1991 to 1994 as deputy commissioner for policy. From 1994-1996 Taylor was administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, during which time he instituted Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP, to improve the safety of meat and poultry production. Between 1996 and 2000, he joined Monsanto as a vice president for public policy. He served as a senior fellow at Resources for the Future from 2000 to 2005, and from 2006 to 2009 held academic positions at the University of Maryland Medical School and at George Washington University. He returned to FDA in July 2009.
Taylor had become a frequent target of attack by anti-GMO and other groups who demonized him for having worked for and on behalf of Monsanto Co. Online petition drives sought to force Taylor’s removal from office because of his association with Monsanto and the “revolving door” nature of his career. One such effort claims to have gathered more than 466,000 signatures since first opposing Taylor’s appointment as senior adviser to the FDA commissioner in July 2009. “Taylor is the same person who as a high-ranking official at the FDA in the 1990s promoted allowing genetically modified organisms into the U.S. food supply without undergoing a single test to determine their safety or risks,” reads the petition, posted by MoveOn.org. “This is a travesty.”