August 14, 2022

Women’s History Month: FDA Spotlights Food Safety Pioneer Mattie Rae Spivey Fox

During her 28-year career at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) , Mattie Rae Spivey Fox  authored 100 scholarly papers, and earned the agency’s highest distinction, the FDA Award of Merit. Her work for the agency, which began in 1962, focussed on essential minerals and toxic elements, and the roles they play in metabolism and nutrition. Her accomplishments as a food safety pioneer are being spotlighted by the FDA during Women’s History Month.

Mattie-Rae-Spivey-FoxFox earned her bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in chemistry from Texas Women’s University in Denton, Texas, in 1943, her M.S. from Iowa State University and her Ph. D. in biochemistry at George Washington University in 1953. Before joining the FDA, Fox worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Institutes of Health.

Fox was among the first groups of investigators to use Japanese quail in scientific research. They grow more rapidly than other birds, are very sensitive to nutritional deficiencies, begin laying eggs much sooner than chickens. Within a year, five generations can be hatched and matured, allowing researchers to track how changes in nutrition affect subsequent generations.

She was a mentor to other scientists and served as a consultant to a number of groups  including the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council, the National Center for Health Statistics, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the International Congress of Nutrition, the USDA and the United Nations. She retired in 1985 and died three years later.

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