The Senate on Monday confirmed President Barack Obama's pick to oversee food and drug safety, two areas that are vital to consumers and widely seen as in critical need of improvement.
Margaret Hamburg, M.D., a bioterrorism expert, will be sworn in as the 21st commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and only the second woman to hold the post in 100 years of agency history. The Senate confirmed her nomination by voice vote.
Her first priority will be to help direct development of a vaccine for the new swine flu. She says she also wants to revamp food safety.
The FDA oversees goods ranging from peanut butter to cancer drugs to medical imaging machines a portfolio that represents about a quarter of consumer products.
But its reputation has been tarnished. A few years ago, the agency was shaken by the withdrawal of Vioxx, a painkiller that turned out to have serious heart risks. Recurring outbreaks of foodborne illness have exposed its haphazard oversight of the nation's food supply. A federal judge recently ruled that the FDA politicized a decision on emergency contraception during the Bush administration. And morale problems keep spilling out into the open.
Hamburg, 53, told senators at her confirmation hearing that she wants to restore public confidence in the agency by putting science first and running an open and accountable operation.