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Dr. Peter G. Lurie Named Incoming President of CSPI

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Dr. Peter G. Lurie will be the new executive director and president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, succeeding Michael F. Jacobson, PhD, who co-founded the nonprofit nutrition and food-safety watchdog organization in 1971.

Lurie was most recently the Associate Commissioner for Public Health Strategy and Analysis at the Food and Drug Administration, where he held several other leadership posts, after being Deputy Director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group from 2000 to 2009.

A family physician, Lurie holds an MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and an MPH from the University of California, Berkeley.  During his eight-year tenure at the FDA, Lurie’s diverse profile included leading the agency’s initiatives on antibiotic resistance and transparency, as well as additional work on international tobacco control, caffeinated beverages, arsenic in rice, fish consumption by pregnant and nursing women, laboratory-developed tests, and numerous other issues related to food, drugs, and medical devices.  He wrote a report on drug shortages, organized a hack-a-thon to develop a phone app linking opioid overdose victims with people carrying the antidote naloxone, streamlined the application process for patients seeking expanded access to unapproved drugs, and published medical journal articles on topics ranging from opioid prescribing to conflicts of interest on FDA advisory committees to the transparency of the FDA’s reasons for not approving drugs. 

At Public Citizen, Lurie’s focus included drug-safety issues. He also coauthored, with Dr. Sidney Wolfe, the organization’s popular Worst Pills, Best Pills consumer guide to medications. Lurie testified before Congress on HIV-prevention policy, international clinical trial ethics, mad-cow-disease policy, and direct-to-consumer drug advertising, and also worked on resident work hours, occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium, and other issues.

“I’m excited to be part of an organization with such a long and proud track record, and look forward to advancing CSPI’s agenda of science-based advocacy promoting the public health,” Lurie said.

CSPI’s board of directors selected Lurie after a six-month-long nationwide search conducted by Isaacson, Miller and led by CSPI board member and former FDA Commissioner Dr. David A. Kessler.

“Peter is a first-rate scientist and public-interest advocate who will continue and expand upon the great work CSPI has done to ensure the safety, labeling, and healthfulness of our food supply,” said Lisa Heinzerling, CSPI board chair.

“I’m excited to be part of an organization with such a long and proud track record, and look forward to advancing CSPI’s agenda of science-based advocacy promoting the public health,” Lurie said.

“I am thrilled to hand over the reins to a longtime public-interest scientist who, I believe, can bring CSPI to new heights,” said Jacobson, who is regarded as one the nation’s leading food-policy advocates.  “His experience at Public Citizen and the FDA provides the strong foundation for new accomplishments that will advance the public’s health and government and corporate accountability.”  Jacobson will serve as senior scientist and remain on the CSPI board.

“It’s hard to think of a more tireless and effective public-interest advocate than Mike Jacobson,” Heinzerling said.  “From the elimination of trans fats to declining consumption of sugary beverages to lowering the sodium content of our food, Mike Jacobson has been a major force at every step on our way to a safer and more nutritious food supply.  Those achievements are saving tens of thousands of lives every year.”  

As part of the transition, CSPI’s director of nutrition policy, Margo G. Wootan, has been elevated to the new position of vice president for nutrition.  Wootan received a BS in nutrition from Cornell University and her doctorate in nutrition from the Harvard School of Public Health. 

CSPI led the fight for passage of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, which brought Nutrition Facts labels to packaged foods, and the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which eliminated soda and junk food from schools and improved the nutritional quality of school meals.  CSPI began the movement to place calorie counts on chain-restaurant menus, and recently sued the FDA to implement the national menu-labeling provisions that CSPI fought to include in the Affordable Care Act.  CSPI also successfully pushed for the elimination of artificial trans fat from the food supply and for the passage of the landmark FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.  From its earliest days, CSPI has sought to eliminate dangerous food additives. CSPI spurred sharp restrictions on cancer-causing nitrite and nitrate in cured meats and on sulfites, which can cause deadly allergic reactions.  A current campaign is pressuring companies to stop using food dyes, which impair some children’s behavior.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).