Texas Tech University

Brashears' Nomination to Top U.S. Food Safety Position Goes Before Senate Committee

George Watson

November 27, 2018

Mindy Brashears would become the new Undersecretary for Food Safety, if confirmed.

Mindy Brashears, a professor of food microbiology and food safety in the Texas Tech University College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources' Department of Animal and Food Sciences, who has been nominated by President Donald Trump to the U.S. government's highest food safety position, will participate in a confirmation hearing at 8:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m. CST) on Wednesday (Nov. 28).

The confirmation hearing, which can be viewed live, will be conducted by the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Brashears was nominated May 4 as the next United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Undersecretary for Food Safety, a position which requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

If confirmed by the senate, Brashears will be responsible for oversight of policies and programs of the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which is responsible for ensuring an ample supply of meat, poultry and processed eggs for the nation, and that those products are safe and correctly labeled and packaged.

A National Academy of Inventors fellow, Brashears, a worldwide expert in food safety issues both in pre-harvest and post-harvest environments, is also the director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech. The center works to provide the world with a more secure food supply through innovation, research and technology transfer across the four pillars of food security – access, availability, stability and utilization.

Brashears, who earned her bachelor's degree in food technology from Texas Tech's College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, also directs extensive research efforts into reducing the occurrences of pathogens in food and their resistance to drugs and other methods meant to reduce them.

“Dr. Brashears is uniquely qualified for this position and will be an impactful member of the administration,” said Michael Orth, chairman of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. 

Brashears also is a faculty member on the Texas Tech Center for Biodefense, Law and Public Policy in the Texas Tech School of Law. In 2016, she was named one of the “25 Future Icons” by National Provisioner, a national magazine that focuses on the meat-processing profession.

In selecting Brashears for the post, the White House, in a news release, touted the work done by Brashears that has “resulted in the commercialization of a pre-harvest feed additive that can reduce E.coli and Salmonella in cattle.”

Brashears also is a past chairwoman of the National Alliance for Food Safety and Security and of the USDA's multi-state research group.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue lauded the selection of Brashears to the post.

“Food safety is at the core of USDA's mission, because it directly affects the health and well-being of millions of Americans every day,” Perdue said in the news release. “President Trump has made an excellent choice in Dr. Mindy Brashears, and I am excited to have her join the team. Dr. Brashears has spent decades finding ways to improve food safety standards through innovation, invention and leadership on research missions across the globe. I look forward to her bringing that wealth of expertise and track record of results here to the USDA.”

Brashears joins several Texas Tech graduates or former faculty members who are either currently serving or have served in top positions within the federal government.

Brandon Lipps, who earned his bachelor's degree in agricultural economics and his law degree from the Texas Tech School of Law, leads the Food and Nutrition Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and currently serves as the Acting Deputy Undersecretary for the department's Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. Lipps served as Chief of Staff for former Texas Tech University System Chancellor Robert Duncan from 2015-2017.

Ambassador Tibor Nagy, who served as Vice Provost for International Affairs at Texas Tech for 14 years, was confirmed this past summer as the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

Don Wright, who earned his bachelor's degree in zoology and animal biology at Texas Tech, served as Acting Secretary of Health & Human Services from Sept. 29, 2017, to Jan. 28, 2018. Wright is currently the director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

A. Wess Mitchell, who earned a bachelor's degree in history in 2001 from the College of Arts & Sciences and was named a 2018 Distinguished Alumnus by the college, currently serves as the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.