A former Ivy League professor will play a key role in keeping the nation’s food safe and nutritious.
Susan T. Mayne this week joined the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as the new director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), replacing her predecessor Michael Landa, who led the center for more than four years.
Mayne hails from the Yale School of Public Health where she held the position as C.-E.A. Winslow Professor of Epidemiology and Chair, Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology.
“I was attracted to the FDA by the potential to use science to impact public health in a way that was difficult in an academic setting," explained Mayne, who also served as Associate Director of Yale Cancer Center, in a Q&A. “We need to translate cutting edge science in a way that improves health, and policy is one of the best levers we have to do that."
Mayne said she is interested in all areas over which CFSAN has oversight, including cosmetics, food safety, nutrition and disease prevention. However, Mayne noted she will have to recuse herself from issues that involve dietary supplements.
Mayne certainly boosts the academic credentials of an Ivy League scholar. CFSAN’s new director has researched the role of food, nutrition and obesity as risks for chronic disease, and she is the author or co-author of more than 200 scientific publications, according to FDA. She received a B.A. in chemistry from the University of Colorado, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences, with minors in biochemistry and toxicology, from Cornell University.
“While I make no claims as an expert on food safety, I studied toxicology while earning my Ph.D., and have conducted research into relationships between chemical contaminants and cancer risk, as well as studying microbes and their role in human cancer," Mayne said in the Q&A. “Thus, I think about things from the perspective of both benefits and risks, and am equally interested in both areas."
Mayne grew up in rural Colorado. She understands agriculture and comes from a health-conscious family. She said her grandmother lived to be one year shy of age 100 and produced most of her food on a farm in rural Pennsylvania. Mayne’s dad had a small ranch in Colorado where he raised cattle. She characterized her 80-something-year-old mom as “the image of successful aging."
“She chooses healthy foods, is physically active daily, and frequently sends me pictures of her hikes in the Colorado mountains," Mayne wrote.