January 26, 2023

USDA undersecretary for food safety sworn in

USDA undersecretary for food safety sworn in

By: Sydney Sheffield 

At the beginning of the year, Jose Emilio Esteban, Ph.D. was sworn in to serve as the United States Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Food Safety. Esteban was previously confirmed by the Senate on the last day of the 177th congress.

“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. “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.” 

Several organizations expressed their support for this decision. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said, “Dr. Esteban brings decades of experience to his new position, and we look forward to continuing to work with him and his team at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to further our common goal of producing safe, wholesome pork for U.S. and international consumers.” 

Likewise, CEO Ted McKinney at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) said, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture needs knowledgeable and experienced leaders at the helm like Dr. Esteban to navigate our food system’s current challenges and implement bipartisan solutions. We thank the U.S. Senate for confirming Dr. Esteban and for seeing the strengths he brings to the agriculture and food industry.”

Esteban earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He later earned a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Science in preventive veterinary medicine, and a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of California, Davis. 

Dr. Esteban joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, serving as a staff epidemiologist, an officer with the Epidemic Intelligence Service, and assistant director of the Food Safety Office. He joined the Food Safety and Inspection Service in 2006 and has served as a science advisor, laboratory director, and chief scientist in the department. He is also chair of the Codex Alimentarius Commission Committee on Food Hygiene and vice president of the International Association for Food Protection.

“Dr. Esteban is well respected and well qualified to lead the food safety mission at the Department,” said Julie Anna Potts president and chief executive officer of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI). “A veterinarian and an epidemiologist with decades of experience at USDA, Esteban is uniquely qualified to ensure sound science drives food safety and public health decision-making.”