WASHINGTON –  USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety, Elisabeth Hagen announced this morning she plans to step down from her position in mid-December to take a job in the private sector.

"Today, I am announcing that I will be embarking ….. on a new challenge in the private sector,” Hagen said in a statemen. “I am grateful to Agriculture Secretary [Tom] Vilsack for the opportunity to serve as Undersecretary for Food Safety and be part of his leadership team. 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,” she added. “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."

Thanks to Hagen's hard work and sound leadership of the thousands of employees at FSIS, America's meat, poultry and processed eggs are safer for Americans, Vilsack said. “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,” he added. “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.”

Vilsack said he was proud of the effort made by government to ensure a safe food supply for Americans. “Undersecretary Hagen has played a key role in those efforts. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors," he concluded.

Hagen was sworn-in as Undersecretary for Food Safety on Aug. 20, 2010. She oversaw the policies and programs of FSIS. She is a principal member of the President's Food Safety Working Group. Prior to her appointment as Under Secretary, she served in a number of leadership roles at USDA, including as the department's Chief Medical Officer and in FSIS Office of Public Health Science. Before joining public service, she taught and practiced clinical medicine. Hagen holds a B.S. in biology from St. Joseph's Univ. and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School. She is specialty trained in internal medicine and infectious diseases.