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Senate confirms Hagen as USDA food safety chief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senators on Thursday approved Elizabeth Hagen as the top food-safety official at the U.S. Agriculture Department, a post that was vacant for months, and Catherine Woteki to oversee USDA's research arm.

Hagen and Woteki were confirmed as agriculture undersecretaries by voice vote. President Barack Obama used a recess appointment on Aug 10 to install Hagen as undersecretary for food safety, overseeing meat safety. The Senate vote assures her of serving a full term.

It took the administration nearly a year after taking office to announce Hagen, USDA's chief medical officer, as its nominee for the job.

The late-summer recall of half a billion eggs by two Iowa farms highlighted the absence of an administration appointee.

"There is no higher priority at USDA than ensuring that Americans have access to a safe and healthy food supply," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement applauding the Senate vote on Hagen and Woteki.

As undersecretary for research, Woteki will serve a second stint as a sub-cabinet official at USDA. During the Clinton era, she was the first person to serve as undersecretary for food safety.

(Reporting by Charles Abbott; editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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