U.S. Agriculture Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen will step down from her duties in December to join the private sector. Hagen, who was sworn in as Under Secretary in 2010, was responsible for overseeing the policies and programs of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

"I am grateful to Secretary (Tom) Vilsack for the opportunity to serve as Under Secretary for Food Safety and be part of his leadership team," Hagen said on November 15.  "I also want to thank the dedicated public servants of FSIS for their tireless work in protecting the public health; it has been an honor to serve with them. I've had the pleasure of serving FSIS in a career capacity as well as Under Secretary, so I know full well their commitment to protecting public health.

"It has been an ambitious three years. USDA and FSIS have successfully made preventing foodborne illness a real priority. The steps we have taken, from modernizing the agency, strengthening oversight of industry and increasing outreach to consumers has led to safer food and fewer foodborne illnesses."

Vilsack applauded Hagen for her dedication to the agency and to assuring a safe food supply.

"Thanks to Elisabeth Hagen's hard work and sound leadership of the thousands of employees at the Food Safety and Inspection Service, America's meat, poultry and processed eggs are safer for Americans," said Vilsack.  "Under Dr. Hagen's leadership, USDA adopted a new zero-tolerance policy for additional strains of E. coli in beef and adopted new standards to protect Americans from Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry. She also spearheaded the effort to develop a new Public Health Information System to better inform consumers about proper food handling and food safety, to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. I'm proud of our record under the Obama Administration to ensure a safe food supply for Americans, and Under Secretary Hagen has played a key role in those efforts. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors."