Richard Breitmeyer, formerly California state veterinarian, has been named director of the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory system headquartered at the University of California, Davis. His appointment became effective Nov. 4.
The laboratory system is a partnership between the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, providing veterinarians and livestock and poultry producers throughout the state with rapid, reliable diagnoses of animal diseases. The system operates labs in Tulare, Turlock and San Bernardino, as well as at UC Davis.
The lab has played a prominent role during recent years in conducting surveillance for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), West Nile virus, H1N1 influenza and exotic Newcastle disease, and in testing seafood from the gulf oil spill and pet food for chemical contamination.
“Dr. Breitmeyer has an outstanding record of working effectively with livestock producers, veterinarians and public health officials at the state and federal level,” said Bennie Osburn, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine.
“We are truly privileged to have him return to his alma mater and assume leadership of the laboratory system, which plays such a critical role in protecting California and the nation from some of the most serious threats to animal and human health,” he said.
Breitmeyer joined the California Department of Food and Agriculture as a veterinary medical officer in 1984. He was appointed to be California’s first state veterinarian in 1993 and served in that position under three governors until 2010.
As state veterinarian, he had statutory authority to quarantine domestic animals or food from animal products when necessary to protect the health and safety of animals and the public. He provided advice to the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the United Kingdom and led the state in battling an outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease in Southern California that began in 2002.
Breitmeyer also served as the state’s director of Animal Health and Food Safety Services, overseeing programs devoted to animal health, milk and dairy foods control, meat and poultry inspection and livestock identification
He is credited with establishing quality assurance programs in food safety for the poultry and dairy industries and contributing to the Foreign Animal Disease Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A native of Orange County, Breitmeyer grew up on his family’s egg-producing poultry farm in Orange. He completed his undergraduate studies at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, before going on to earn his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1980 and his Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine degree in 1988, both from UC Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine.
After graduating from veterinary school, he worked for three years in a large animal practice in Arcata and then in a mixed practice in Arroyo Grande.
As he assumes leadership of the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory system, Breitmeyer steps into the post held for 21 years by Alex Ardans, a professor of veterinary medicine who retired in June 2008. Hailu Kinde, a professor of clinical diagnostic microbiology and manager of the system’s San Bernardino laboratory, has served as interim director since Ardans’ retirement.