Industry News / Food Safety

Hamburg To Step Down from FDA

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Feb 05, 2015

Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the FDA nearly six years, announced on Feb. 5 she's stepping down at the end of March.

Hamburg, 59, was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in May 2009, making her one of the longest-serving FDA commissioners in recent history. Stephen Ostroff, the FDA's chief scientist, will fill Hamburg's position until a new commissioner is named.

"From creating a modernized food safety system that will reduce foodborne illness; advancing biomedical innovation by approving novel medical products in cutting-edge areas; and responding aggressively to the need to secure the safety of a globalized food and medical product supply chain, to taking critical steps to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco, we have accomplished a tremendous amount in the last six years," she said in a letter to her staff. "We can honestly say that our collective efforts have improved the health, safety and quality of life of the American people."

Her letter to staff said "this decision was not easy" and it comes "with very mixed emotions."

It hasn't been an easy six years. She presided over the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, the biggest overhaul of food safety laws since the FDA was created as part of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938. And she resisted calls for splitting the agency in two, creating a separate drug administration and somehow merging the food safety part of the agency with USDA.

Reuters news agency noted Robert Califf, a prominent cardiologist and researcher from Duke University, joined the agency late last month to oversee its drug, medical device and tobacco policy. Califf is viewed by many as a potential successor to Hamburg.

Reuters also reported Hamburg, who graduated from Harvard Medical School, was a long-time public health official with extensive experience fighting AIDS and tuberculosis. She served at the National Institutes of Health before becoming New York City's health commissioner.