Trump selects key witness from pink slime case as nation’s top food safety chief

Trump selects key witness from pink slime case as nation’s top food safety chief

By Christine Haughney and Liz Crampton

05/04/2018 11:48 AM EDT

President Donald Trump on Friday named Mindy M. Brashears, director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University whose testimony helped Beef Products, Inc. with its defamation suit against ABC News, to be the next USDA undersecretary for food safety.

Brashears, whose research has focused on meat and poultry products as well as spinach, attracted attention last summer when she testified before a jury on behalf of Beef Products, Inc. The company had sued ABC News after it repeatedly referred to its lean finely textured beef meat as "pink slime." Food Safety News reported that Brashears disputed this reference and described it as safe for consumption. BPI’s owners sued ABC News and settled the case last year out of court.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue praised Brashears’ nomination. "Dr. Brashears has spent decades finding ways to improve food safety standards through innovation, invention, and leadership on research missions across the globe," Perdue said. "I look forward to her bringing that wealth of expertise and track record of results here to USDA."

Brashears received her undergraduate degree in food technology from Texas Tech and her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in food science from Oklahoma State University. Her research focused on improving food safety standards.

It’s unclear how long it may take Brashears to assume the role. She must appear before the Senate Agriculture Committee for a hearing and then be confirmed by the senate — a process that already has been held up for several Agriculture Department nominees.

In his statement, Perdue also pressed lawmakers to move quickly on the names. "We still have qualified people in addition to Dr. Brashears awaiting confirmation to fill key roles at USDA. I urge the Senate take up all of our nominations as quickly as possible," Perdue said in a statement.

If Brashears is confirmed, she is stepping into a position with an extensive backlog of work to be done. The last undersecretary for food safety was Dr. Elisabeth Hagen who left the job in late 2013.