Dr. Richard Hunter, former Deputy State Health officer of the Florida Department of Health, has accepted the position of President & CEO of Food Technology Service, Inc. (Nasdaq:VIFL). This move by Dr. Hunter, a prominent public health expert, to one of the country’s leading food irradiation companies makes a strong statement regarding the need for consumers to have safer foods available in the marketplace.
“I have devoted my career to preventing diseases such as food borne illness. I believe food irradiation has such potential to prevent food borne illness that I want to fully pursue expanding its use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, numerous health agencies and the medical community have endorsed this process as being safe and effective,” said Dr. Hunter. “Food Technology Service has been a leader in the development of food irradiation and I hope my involvement will act as a catalyst to expand the availability of pathogen free products.”
“Dr. Hunter has been at the center of a group of public health leaders who early-on recognized the tremendous potential for irradiated foods to prevent disease,” said Oklahoma Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. Each year in the US, 76 million cases of food borne illnesses are reported resulting in 5,000 deaths. Many of these deaths occur in young children and the elderly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that if widely used, food irradiation would prevent nearly 900,000 cases of food borne illness, 5,000 hospitalizations and over 350 deaths each year. These illnesses cost the U.S. Economy between $5 and $7 billion annually.
Irradiation is a food processing technique similar to heat pasteurization; it penetrates food, destroying the bacteria and pathogens such as Salmonella and E. Coli that lead to food decay or cause disease. This cold process does not increase the temperature of the foods being processed nor does it spoil their taste, texture or appearance.
“Irradiation benefits consumers by virtually eliminating pathogens that cause food borne illnesses,” said Hunter. “It is especially important for children and elders, whose immune systems may not be adequate, and for those who have medical conditions that make them immuno-compromised. Food irradiation is the most progressive advancement in public health in years and can be paralleled to past public advocacy for the pasteurization of milk. The public recognizes that pasteurized milk is safe and eliminates a health threat that was widely present in raw milk. Irradiation provides the same result with chicken, meat and other food products.
“This is a food safety issue. Each year that irradiated products are not widely available to the consumer, is another year where preventable, unnecessary illness, hospitalization and death from food borne illness will occur,” said Hunter. “We have an effective tool to prevent these diseases and my goal is to make Food Tech the leader in providing safer foods.”
Food Technology Service Inc.
Founded in 1985, Food Technology Service is the first company in the United States to commercialize food irradiation to control food borne disease. Headquartered in Mulberry, Florida, Food Technology Service operates a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspected plant that provides contract-irradiation services to the food industry. Its clients include NASA, whose astronauts have consumed irradiated foods in space for many years.
Food Tech Board Chairman Tom Daw praised retiring President Pete Ellis for achieving profitability during last year as President & CEO. “He has played an important role in the development of this company and has expanded the customer base, the line of services and implemented strategic alliances that will serve this company well in the years to come,” said Daw. Ellis will remain on Food Tech’s board of directors.
Except for historical matters contained herein, the matters discussed in this press release are forward-looking statements and are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements reflect assumptions and involve risks and uncertainties that may affect business and prospects and cause actual results to differ materially from these forward-looking statements.