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Houlton Named Dean of Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Benjamin Z. Houlton, director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment and professor of global environmental studies at the University of California, Davis, has been named Cornell University's Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He also will be appointed a professor in the Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and of Global Development.


An accomplished environmental scientist, Houlton is recognized internationally for research collaborations into ecosystem processes and solutions to ameliorate climate change and to improve carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles for energy and food production.


Houlton succeeds Kathryn Boor '80, who will become dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for graduate education.


Houlton will share responsibility for leadership of Cornell Cooperative Extension throughout New York State with Rachel Dunifon, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of Cornell's College of Human Ecology.


Houlton has served on the University of California, Davis, faculty since 2007, teaching global environmental studies, and published more than 60 peer-reviewed scientific articles in such leading journals as Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


In 2006, he won the Gene E. Likens Award from the Ecological Society of America. The award is named for Likens, who was a Cornell professor (1969-1983) in the Section of Ecology and Systematics, the predecessor of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He has also received an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Young Investigator Award (2008) and an NSF CAREER Award (2011).


Houlton earned a bachelor's degree in water chemistry (1998) from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point; a master's degree in environmental engineering (2000) from Syracuse University; and a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology (2005) from Princeton University. Afterward, he served for 2 years as a postdoctoral scholar in biological sciences at Stanford University and the Carnegie Institute of Science at Stanford. Houlton grew up in Wisconsin, where his family roots span a long line of Midwestern dairy and poultry farmers. We wish him well in Ithaca!


FDA Releases Food Safety Blueprint That Uses Tech to Build on FSMA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes tech-enabled traceability, using smarter tools and approaches for prevention and outbreak response, taking advantage of new business models and retail modernization, and fostering, strengthening, and supporting a culture of food safety will reduce the number of foodborne illnesses, announced in the FDA's New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint.


The blueprint is a 10-year framework for food safety that builds on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The plan describes how the government and industry will use technology to add to the goal of reducing the number of cases of foodborne illness.


This new set of guidelines, which were delayed by 4 months because of the pandemic, revolve around 4 core principles that require the use of digital tools and new technologies such as blockchain, end-to-end traceability, e-commerce, big data, and predictive analytics to modernize food safety. One of the pilot initiatives that the FDA is conducting is artificial intelligence and machine learning review of imported foods at US ports of entry. The adequate intake will model historical shipment data to assist with product screening and determine if products meet US food safety standards.


Food manufacturers and experts have been pushing for blockchain technology and interactive packaging for years in order to increase supply chain traceability and give consumers more insight into their products' origins. The FDA wants to use this plan to encourage more widespread adoption of these technologies by incentivizing the creation of solutions with low and no cost, enabling food producers of all sizes to participate. Additionally, the FDA said it will implement an internal digital technology system to track data elements from industry and regulatory partners. The blueprint also addresses business models that did not exist when FSMA was passed, but are common today. It includes setting several standards for food delivery safety, providing training for those who do food delivery as well as creating educational materials for consumers about the safety of foods that are delivered. It also outlines plans to work with retailers, reviewing the effectiveness of current ways they try to prevent foodborne illness and working with them on effective facility design.


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Rod Leonard, Community Nutrition Institute Founder Set Minnesota and US Food Policies for Decades

Rod Leonard, a key behind-the-scenes player in setting state and national food policies over several decades, died in August. He was 90. Rod, as he was known to one and all, was a wonderful communicator who was deeply committed to social justice, consumer issues, and, above all, to what later became the USDA's food programs. Leonard was a longtime assistant to the late Orville Freeman when he was governor of Minnesota and later when Freeman was US secretary of agriculture under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. When Freeman was elected governor in 1954, he hired Leonard as his press secretary and legislative troubleshooter, posts that he held for three 2-year terms. When Kennedy was elected president in 1960, he appointed Freeman as secretary of agriculture, and Leonard went to Washington with him. Kennedy directed Freeman to develop a pilot food assistance program to address hunger and poverty, and Leonard, after organizing the Department of Agriculture's press office, headed up that effort. There he helped create the Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition program. He continued to work on food policy under President Johnson, helping to develop a "food stamp" program similar to today's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP.


After Johnson left the presidency in 1969, Leonard founded the Community Nutrition Institute in Washington, DC, to advise policymakers on federal food assistance programs and advocate for food safety. He returned to the White House a few years later to serve in President Jimmy Carter's consumer affairs office, where he worked on food labeling efforts. After Carter's term ended, he went back to Community Nutrition Institute, where he resumed conducting research, writing, and advocating on food and farm issues.


Leonard also wrote 2 books on Freeman, one on his terms as governor and another on his stint as secretary of agriculture. In his retirement, he joined the board of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis, where he continued to advocate for meat inspection and other food safety measures. Our condolences to his family. His benign presence in the field of nutrition will be sorely missed.


Alan Howard, PhD, Cambridge Diet Inventor

Alan Norman Howard, PhD, passed away this summer. He was a pioneer in the field of nutrition and obesity whose work achieved global commercial success. An entrepreneur and scientist, Howard invented the Cambridge Diet, a very low-calorie diet, which was all the rage in the late 1970s and 1980s and which later enabled him to establish a charitable trust, the Howard Foundation. The man behind the weight-loss plan influenced millions of people with obesity.


His academic research and contribution to the science of human health launched and enhanced careers, touching many lives, while his professional support empowered scientists across the world. In 1948, he won a place at Downing College Cambridge to read Natural Sciences, earning a PhD in 1955. A 37-year career at the university followed, during which he first became interested in the field of atherosclerosis. He was secretary and organizing committee member for the first International Symposium on Atherosclerosis held in Athens in 1966 and was an editor of the proceedings. This led to research into obesity. He found and edited the International Journal of Obesity and became secretary of the Obesity Association-now known as the Association for the Study of Obesity. In 1981, at the age of 52, his life changed when he launched the Cambridge Diet, a protein supplement-modified fast-type formula. It was through this accomplishment that the Howard Foundation was established a year later, overseeing some of the profits, which were driven into charitable initiatives and scientific research projects on how diet impacts health. Howard received an honorary fellowship awarded to him by Downing College and from WIT. In 2009, he received the Chancellor's 88th Anniversary Medal for outstanding philanthropy, which was awarded to him by the Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace. Dr Howard wished to be remembered as a scientist who found solutions to enhancing human health.



Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Food & Nutrition Virtual Conference & Expo


October 17 to 20, 2020


APHA 2020-Creating the Healthiest Nation: Preventing Violence


October 24 to 28, 2020


The Obesity Society ObesityWeek(R) 2020 Interactive


November 2 to 6, 2020


School Nutrition Association School Nutrition Industry Conference


January 10 to 12, 2021


Tampa, Florida


American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology Virtual Annual Meeting


February 26 to March 1, 2021