The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), a nonprofit scientific organization committed to advancing the science of food and its application across the global food system, announced that Sean Leighton has officially assumed the role of board president, succeeding Christopher Downs, PhD.

Leighton is the global vice president of food safety, quality and regulatory at Cargill.

A member of IFT since 1999 where he was a participant in the IFT Student Association (IFTSA) product development competition, Leighton has served in several volunteer roles as a presenter, panelist, podcast thought leader, as well as an advisory council member of IFT’s Global Food Traceability Center. 

“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,” said IFT CEO Christie Tarantino-Dean. 

With a career spanning more than 20 years in the food and beverage community, Leighton has intimate knowledge of the science and standards that make food safe and the strategies to ensure the quality of supply chains that feed the world. Before joining Cargill in 2017, Leighton served as vice president of quality assurance, people safety and environmental sustainability at The Coca-Cola Co., where he spent 12 years in roles of increasing responsibility. Prior to that, he worked at Land O’Lakes Incorporated.

In addition to IFT, Leighton sits on numerous advisory boards, including The Center for Food Safety (University of Georgia), The Center for Food Integrity (CFI), Partnerships for Food Safety Education, and the Food Fraud Think Tank (Michigan State University). He holds 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 in Atlanta, Georgia.

“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.”