Mike Taylor announced on March 9 that he is stepping down from his position as deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency reported that Taylor will leave on June 1 after more than six years as one of the Obama administration’s top food officials. Taylor’s departure comes at a particularly crucial time for implementing a massive food safety overhaul that he’s championed throughout his tenure at the federal agency. The FDA said it has a succession plan that "ensures both continuity in the program and strong new leadership for the future." Dr. Stephen Ostroff, who served as acting commissioner of the FDA before Robert Califf was confirmed last month, will fill the post.
Taylor joined FDA in July 2009 and was named to this position in 2010. Since that time, he has led the implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, considered the most sweeping food safety reform in more than 70 years, and guided nutrition-related initiatives to reduce the risk factors for chronic disease and other adverse diet-related outcomes. He has overseen the move to eliminate the use of certain antibiotics that can contribute to the development of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. Understanding the importance of dialogue, partnership, and active stakeholder engagement in effecting change, Taylor has sought to "ensure everyone had a place at the table in designing rules and taking actions to protect Americans and contribute to a safer, more wholesome food supply," the FDA stated.
Dr. Ostroff has a background in epidemiology, and food advocates hope he will stay the course on FSMA and other key issues, though many acknowledge he has big shoes to fill. Industry leaders, consumer advocates and state officials all reacted to the news with effusive praise of Taylor’s track record. Taylor is the first individual to hold the position of deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, which was created along with a new Office of Foods in August 2009.
A nationally recognized food safety expert, Taylor has served in numerous high-level positions at the FDA, as a research professor in the academic community, and on several National Academy of Sciences expert committees studying food-related issues. He also served as administrator of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and acting under secretary for food safety at USDA, where he spearheaded public health-oriented reform of FSIS, guided the development of new safety requirements for meat and poultry products, and addressed the hazard associated with E. coli O157:H7 in beef products.
Taylor says he plans to continue working on in the food safety arena, focusing on those settings where people lack regular access to sufficient, nutritious and safe food.
The agency says Dr. Ostroff’s expertise in public health and knowledge of food safety, nutrition and veterinary medicine programs will help ensure a smooth and seamless transition. Prior to serving as acting FDA commissioner, Dr. Ostroff was named the agency’s chief scientist in 2014, and was responsible for leading and coordinating FDA’s cross-cutting scientific and public health efforts. He joined FDA in 2013 as chief medical officer in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and senior public health advisor to Taylor.
Prior to that, he served as deputy director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and as director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and acting physician general at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Taylor and Dr. Ostroff will work closely together between now and June 1, the agency says, with FDA Commissioner Califf’s strong support, to manage a transition that sustains the program’s momentum on the many future challenges and opportunities.