U.S – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has appointed José Emilio Esteban, Ph.D., as the organization’s new Under Secretary for Food Safety.

Dr. Esteban joined the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in 2001 and held the roles of Laboratory Director for the Western Laboratory, Scientific Advisor for laboratory services and research coordination, and Executive Associate for laboratory services. 

In 2018, he was appointed Chief Scientist of FSIS. In his role, Dr. Esteban provides scientific advice to support agency policies including the disciplines of microbiology, chemistry, and pathology. 

“Dr. Esteban has a long and well-documented commitment to food safety and public health. With over two decades of experience at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, he has been on the front lines of protecting the public from foodborne illness for much of his career,” said USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

President Biden nominated Esteban as the nation’s sixth Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA on November 15, 2021. 

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry was tasked with reviewing the nomination, but it did not give Esteban a hearing until September 27, 2022. The office remained vacant while waiting for the Senate to act.

“I am confident that Dr. Esteban’s leadership and experience is the right combination to advance our commitment to maintaining public health and reducing foodborne illness. I look forward to working with him as USDA continues to address foodborne challenges head-on with innovative solutions and proactive measures,” Vilsack said.

Dr. Esteban has held positions as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, Staff Epidemiologist, and Assistant Director of the Food Safety Office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

He is the current Chair of the Codex Alimentarius Commission Committee on Food Hygiene, the committee that establishes global food hygiene standards for international trade. He is also serving as the International Association for Food Protection’s Vice President.

Dr. Esteban received his veterinary studies in Mexico and went on to get an MBA, a master’s in Preventive Veterinary Medicine, and a Doctorate in epidemiology from the University of California, Davis.

“Serving as the next Under Secretary of Food Safety is an opportunity to give back to a nation that has given me so much,” he said.

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