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WASHINGTON March 14, 2009, 11:15 am ET · The nation's food safety system is a "hazard to public health" and overdue for an overhaul, President Barack Obama said Saturday as he focused on that task by filling the top job at the Food and Drug Administration.
Obama used his weekly radio and video address to announce the nomination of former New York City Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg as agency commissioner and selection of Baltimore's health commissioner, Joshua Sharfstein as her deputy. Consumer groups applauded the picks.
Obama said the food safety system is too spread out, making it difficult to share information and solve problems.
The FDA does not have enough money or workers to conduct annual inspections at more than a fraction of the 150,000 food processing plants and warehouses in the country, Obama said.
"That is a hazard to public health. It is unacceptable. And it will change under the leadership of Dr. Margaret Hamburg," he pledged.
Hamburg, 53, is a bioterrorism expert. She was an assistant health secretary under President Bill Clinton and helped lay the groundwork for the government's bioterrorism and flu pandemic preparations.