Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced that Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Merle Pierson will become Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics.

"I commend Pierson for his dedication and his contributions to the protection of America's food supply as Deputy Under Secretary and Acting Under Secretary of Food Safety," Johanns said. "He brings extensive experience in the areas of research and education to his new role as Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics and I'm very pleased he will continue to be part of our USDA team."

Pierson was appointed as Deputy Under Secretary of Food Safety in February of 2002. He has served as acting Under Secretary of Food Safety since December of 2004. Pierson has agreed to continue to serve as Deputy Under Secretary of Food Safety to help facilitate the transition to incoming Under Secretary of Food Safety Richard Raymond.

Prior to coming to USDA, Pierson served as professor of food microbiology and safety at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). During his tenure at Virginia Tech, he served as head of the Department of Food Science and Technology from 1985 to 1994, and acting superintendent of the Center for Seafood Extension and Research from 1992 to 1994.

Pierson is internationally recognized for his work with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and research on the reduction and control of foodborne pathogens.

He has authored or co-authored more than 150 journal articles, co-authored/co-edited seven books on food safety, and presented numerous workshops on HACCP and food safety.