Mr. Taylor started his career in 1976 as an F.D.A. staff lawyer and over the next three decades migrated among government, industry and academia. He returned to the F.D.A. in 1991 as deputy commissioner for policy and moved in 1994 to head the Department of Agriculture’s meat inspection service.
Since July, he has served as a senior adviser to Commissioner Margaret Hamburg of the F.D.A. He once worked for Monsanto, the agribusiness giant, leading some in the organic movement to oppose his appointment.
Mr. Taylor is popular among many food-safety and nutrition advocates, who call him intelligent and courageous. But he stumbled in his first major policy initiative since returning to the agency in July, and his considerable experience may have been his undoing.
At a food-safety conference in Washington last year, Dr. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, stood in the hallway and debated Mr. Taylor’s qualities with Russell Libby, the executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. “He’s extremely knowledgeable and public-health oriented,” Dr. Jacobson said in a later interview.