Anyone hoping the U.S. Senate confirms Jose Emilio Esteban as USDA’s undersecretary for food safety by the end of the summer break.
The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee has not scheduled a nomination hearing for Esteban. President Biden nominated him nine months ago, on November 15, 2021, for the top U.S. food safety post.
The Senate will not vote on Esteban’s confirmation until the committee holds a nomination hearing and recommends his nomination.
When the Senate ended its last recess in early July, Ag News reported that the committee was “under pressure” to act on Esteban’s nomination, while others were on the committee struggling.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow has reportedly blamed the long delay on the fact that the White House has not provided all the necessary paperwork.
The top priority of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s summer is to receive substantial tax revenue for rural America. The agriculture sector received $40 billion under the Reducing Inflation Act.
Meanwhile, Esteban’s nomination has been allocated to the committee, but is no closer to confirmation than it was nine months ago.
He is waiting at the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
As FSIS Chief Scientist, Esteban provides scientific advice in support of agency policy, including microbiology, chemistry, and pathology.
This is his fourth position at FSIS, both within the Office of Public Health Sciences. Prior to his current assignment, he was Executive Assistant for Laboratory Services, Scientific Advisor for Laboratory Services and Research Coordination, and Laboratory Director for Western Laboratories.
Prior to joining the USDA agency, he worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, Epidemiologist, and Assistant Director of the Office of Food Safety.
Outside of the U.S. federal government, Esteban also chairs the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene. This committee develops definitions of international food hygiene standards for international trade. He is also currently the Vice President of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP).
Esteban has veterinary training in Mexico and holds an MBA, a master’s degree in preventive veterinary medicine, and a Ph.D.
The White House on March 17 appointed Sandra Eskin as undersecretary for food safety. The deputy position does not require Senate confirmation, and Eskin began work shortly after being named to the second food safety position.
She announced on August 1 that for the first time Salmonella may be considered an adulterant in some breaded chicken products.
Eskin has long been known as the Director of Food Safety Programs for the Pew Charitable Trusts. In this role, Eskin is known for bringing parties together to solve food safety challenges. Eskin will lead the USDA’s Office of Food Safety until the Senate approves Esteban.
USDA’s Undersecretary for Food Safety is an office created by Congress in 1994 under the Reorganization Act, but has remained vacant for most of the Democratic and Republican administrations. If he is confirmed, Esteban will become the sixth deputy food safety minister.
Less than 150 days remain until this Congress adjourns. Nominations unconfirmed by that deadline will get nowhere unless they are presented to the next Congress.
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