Susan T. Mayne, Ph.D., a former Yale School of Public Health professor and now director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFAN) at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), returned this week for a homecoming of sorts to deliver a Dean’s Lecture on the FDA’s role in promoting food safety and nutritional guidelines to improve public health.
Mayne described how the FDA regulates safety and labeling of 80 percent of all food consumed in United States and collaborates with other federal and state partners to develop and implement programs and policies related to the composition, quality, safety, and labeling of foods as well as food and color additives.
“We have learned the critical role the intersection of nutrition and food safety plays in getting healthier outcomes. CFAN fosters the development of healthier foods to ensure that consumers have accurate and useful information to make smarter food choices,” said Mayne, whose talk was titled “Understanding the 'F' in FDA: Recent Activities in the Foods Program Promoting Safer Food and Better Nutrition.”
Focusing on the FDA’s work to improve eating patterns by providing healthy dietary guidelines, Mayne offered the example of new food labels that emphasize more accurate portion sizes, calories and sugars added to products. She also noted the FDA’s work with industries to reformulate their products to list trans fats on the nutrition label resulted in a significant decline in trans-fat consumption. contributing to the prevention of heart disease. And, knowing through research that consumers take in more sodium, calories and saturated fats when dining away from home, the FDA has partnered with industries to offer their expertise and capacity in implementing new food safety standards, and to provide menu labeling in food chains, vending machines and salad and prepared food bars.
In addition to educating consumers, the FDA spearheads scientific programs to prevent and rapidly solve outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. A network of laboratories that genetically sequence pathogens from people who are sickened and from the food they ate allows them to connect the two and identify and solve outbreaks, she said.
Mayne oversees more than 1,000 employees focused on dietary and health initiatives and manages a budget of over $300 million.
An internationally recognized public health leader and scientist, Mayne went to the FDA three years ago from Yale, where she was the C.-E.A. Winslow Professor of Epidemiology and the Associate Director of the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center.