Cargill, Coca-Cola Vet Named IFT Board President

Sean Leighton is a longtime active member and leader of nonprofit food science group
Lynn Petrak
Senior Editor
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Cargill's Leighton
Sean Leighton

A top food safety executive at Cargill, Inc. has been named president of the board at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). Sean Leighton, global VP of food safety, quality and regulatory at Minneapolis, Minn.-based Cargill, has been involved with IFT since his days as a student, when he took part in the group’s product development competition.

In his new capacity leading the board of the nonprofit scientific organization, Leighton will draw upon his years of industry experience, which includes his role at Cargill and work at other CPGs, including Land O’Lakes and Coca-Cola. He will also build on his volunteer work as an IFT presenter, panelist and advisory council member of its Global Food Traceability Center.

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In addition to his directorship at IFT, Leighton shares his expertise as a board member for other organizations, including The Center for Food Safety at University of Georgia, The Center for Food Integrity (CFI), Partnerships for Food Safety Education, and the Food Fraud Think Tank at Michigan State University.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a master’s degree in food science from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from Emory University.

“I am incredibly humbled and excited to step into the role of IFT president,” Leighton said. “The IFT community means so much to me because of the important and impressive role it plays in bringing together leaders across industries, governments, and academia to help ensure our global food system is safe, nutritious, and sustainable. I am looking forward to the year ahead and having this opportunity to serve IFT and the science of food community.”

IFT’s CEO Christie Tarantino-Dean said that Leighton will elevate the organization’s leadership in pivotal areas. “Sean’s commitment to advancing the science of food has long been an inspiration to IFT, its members, and the science of food community in general. He brings a unique perspective to the role, not only as a global leader in industry, but also as a former student member. Sean has been an IFT champion for more than 20 years, and we are excited to see the impact he will now make as president of IFT,” she remarked.

Leighton succeeds Christopher Downs, Ph.D., as president of IFT.  Downs is general manager for crop and food science with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Queensland, Australia, and also served on the board at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology and the High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge in New Zealand.

Founded in 1939 and based in Chicago, IFT serves 12,000 individual members from more than 100 countries. Earlier this summer, IFT launched a new concierge service to support food and beverage companies as they conduct critical research and introduced a product development bootcamp designed to help companies improve skills and knowledge, accelerate new product development, and improve the success of new products.

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