- Sean Leighton is taking over as board president for the Institute of Food Technologies, effective immediately, the organization announced Tuesday.
- Leighton, who has been at Cargill since 2017, takes over for Christopher Downs. Leighton is currently the global vice president of food safety, quality and regulatory at the commodity giant.
- The incoming board president is no stranger to IFT, having started at the institute in 1999 as part of its student association. Since then, Leighton has served in a number of volunteer roles.
Leighton’s food and beverage experience does not stop at Cargill. He also spent 12 years at Coca-Cola where he rose up the ranks to become vice president of quality assurance, people safety and environmental sustainability. Prior to that, he worked at Land O’Lakes as its microbiology team leader.
Leighton is taking the helm at IFT at a pivotal time for food safety. Cultivated meat officially entered the U.S. market in June thanks to the USDA and FDA’s grants of approval to Upside Foods and Eat Just. Still, the nascent category continues to be plagued by a series of food safety questions, including sterilization guidelines and labeling.
“The pace of change has never been faster,” Leighton told Food Dive in an email. “Food is growing in new and challenging markets. The era of line extensions is coming to an end and the demand for “new” foods is growing, like plant-based proteins. Consumers expectations are also evolving in terms of transparency and traceback capabilities.”
Leighton brings a unique perspective to his new role — which could be pivotal for these new food safety issues — following his time at Cargill, Coca-Cola and Land O’Lakes. “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,” Christie Tarantino-Dean, the organization’s CEO, said in a statement.