I.F.S.H. – Is This Safe to Eat?

March 12, 2014

Illinois Institute of Technology, McCormick Tribune Campus Center, McCloska Auditorium
3241 South Federal Street, Chicago, IL, USA


The safety of the food supply has emerged as an important and complex global public health, social, and political issue. Although accurate statistics on the scope of foodborne illness are lacking, the most recent estimates published by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that as many as 48 million cases, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths are caused by foodborne illness each year in the U.S.

Moreover, the economic impact of foodborne illness in the U.S. alone could be as much as $152 billion (U.S.) per year.  Contaminated food and water has been estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) to cause millions of deaths each year from diarrheal diseases. Trust, or lack thereof, in the safety of the food supply has impacted global agricultural and food trade and led to regulatory changes in several countries, including China, Canada, and the U.S.  Past efforts to protect the safety of the food supply were primarily reactive in nature, and relied on inspections, testing of products before sale, and responding to outbreaks of foodborne illness.  In contrast, a new philosophy has emerged in recent years that puts more emphasis on prevention rather than the past reactive approach.   This new food safety paradigm encourage the use of innovative technologies to more accurately identify potential hazards, minimize adulterated products reaching consumers, and more quickly and accurately reaching food processors with the most current scientific and regulatory information.  For example, new molecular technologies such as whole genome sequencing are enabling both regulatory agencies and the food industry to identify those products that have the greatest risk of being contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms, thereby allowing better prioritization of food safety efforts.  In addition, new intervention technologies, such as high pressure processing, pulsed light, and treatment with cool plasma are enabling food processors to produce safer foods with more “fresh-like’ attributes that consumers prefer.  Finally, new distance learning and information sharing technologies are allowing regulators and educators to reach more of the industry, especially small and mid-size companies, with the latest information they need to meet new regulatory and business demands related to food safety.

5:00pm Social hour / 6:00pm Program

Non-Member Fees Apply – $20 reg / $5 Student

Speakers –

Robert E. Brackett, Professor and Interim Department Head Department: Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH), Illinois Institute of Technology

Robert E. Brackett, PhD, serves as Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) Vice President and Director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH). In this capacity, he serves on the IIT administrative leadership team, as well as directs the scientific and educational programs at IFSH.  With nearly 30 years of experience in scientific research in industry, government and academia Dr. Brackett most recently served as Senior Vice President and Chief Science and Regulatory officer for the Washington D.C. based Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a position he held since 2007.  Prior to his position at GMA, he worked at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FDA CFSAN), where he started as a senior microbiologist in the Office of Plant and Dairy Foods and Beverages in 2000.  After several promotions, Dr. Brackett was appointed CFSAN Director, where from 2004-2007 he provided executive leadership to CFSAN’s development and implementation of programs and policies relative to the composition, quality, safety and labeling of foods, food and color additives, dietary supplements and cosmetics. Earlier in his career, Dr. Brackett held professorial positions with North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and the University of Georgia.

Dr. Brackett is a fellow in the International Association for Food Protection and American Academy of Microbiology and a member of the International Association for Food Protection, Institute of Food Technologists, and the American Society for Microbiology. He has been honored with the FDA Award of Merit, the International Association for Food Protection’s President’s Appreciation Award, and most recently, the William C. Frazier Food Microbiology Award.  Dr. Brackett received his doctorate in food microbiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Eric C. Larson, President-Safe Foods International Holdings, Managing Partner- Linden LLC

Eric Larson has been involved in principal investing since 1985.  Prior to founding Linden in 2001, Mr. Larson was Executive Vice President and Managing General Partner of First Chicago Equity Capital (FCEC), which he co-founded in 1991. He was previously a partner and investment principal at First Chicago Venture Capital, now Madison Dearborn Partners.  Mr. Larson joined The First National Bank of Chicago in 1984 in its First Scholar management training program.

Mr. Larson has been a board member of over twenty public and private companies, including several roles as non-executive chairman.  For Linden, Mr. Larson has served as a director of Ranir, LLC (Chairman), Focused Health Solutions, Behavior Centers of America (Chairman) and Barrier Safe Solutions International and is currently Chairman of CORPAK MedSystems.  He is also a director of The National Food Laboratories and its parent holding company, Safe Foods International Holdings.

Outside of Linden, Mr. Larson and his wife, Dr. Barbara Wu, focus on three scientific research-related activities: health sciences; exploration and discovery; and the environment.  He is a board member of the Nutrition Roundtable at the Harvard School of Public Health, the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology and Illinois Venture Capital Association.

Mr. Larson holds an AB in Biology from Harvard College and an MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.