President Bush said Monday he will nominate Lester M. Crawford (search) to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (search), filling a position that has been vacant for nearly a year amid rising concerns about the safety of drugs on the market.

Crawford has been acting commissioner since March 2004, when the Senate confirmed then-director Mark McClellan (search) to oversee the agency that runs the Medicaid (search) and Medicare (search) programs.

One of his main tasks will be to protect the nation's food supply from terrorism, according to his boss, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt (search). He said recently that the FDA will expand to take on that role.

In a statement, Leavitt called Crawford "an outstanding choice" for the post.

"Dr. Crawford has dedicated his career to advancing the nation's public health and will lead the way as we enter a new era of individualized medicine and rapidly developing science," Leavitt said. "With Dr. Crawford's leadership, FDA will provide the world's safest drugs and empower citizens with the tools they need to make informed choices about their health."

Leavitt's predecessor, Tommy Thompson, said in December that the nation's food supply is so unprotected he was surprised terrorists had not already tried to corrupt it.

The FDA also has come under scrutiny for its drug-approval process after the arthritis drug Vioxx (search) was pulled from the market in the fall because it doubled patients' risk of heart attack and strokes. Two similar drugs, Celebrex (search) and Bextra (search), have been associated with increased risk of heart problems.

Crawford earned a degree as a veterinarian from Auburn University and earned a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Georgia.