CHICAGO — Sean Leighton joined the Institute of Food Technologists as president. Leighton succeeds Christopher Downs, PhD.

Leighton has more than 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, including the past six years with Cargill. He is currently global vice president of food safety, quality and regulatory at Cargill.

Before joining Cargill in 2017, Leighton was 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 Inc.

Leighton has been a member of IFT since 1999, when he was a participant in the IFT Student Association (IFTSA) product development competition. He also has served in several volunteer roles as a presenter, panelist, podcast thought leader and 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,” said Christie Tarantino-Dean, chief executive officer of IFT. “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.”

In addition to IFT, Leighton is a member of 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 a master’s degree in business administration 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.”