Packer 25 2020 — Frank Yiannas

Packer 25 2020 — Frank Yiannas

Frank Yiannas brings passion and results to the topic of food safety.

“The most gratifying parts of my career have always been about protecting consumers, whether it was guests at Disney theme parks, greater than 100 million-plus customers weekly at Walmart, or now the approximately 330 million Americans that I serve,” said Yiannas, who is deputy commissioner of food policy and response for the Food and Drug Administration.

“It’s really about them — the American consumer — who I work for, and I consider it an honor to serve and protect them.”

His motivation, he says, is that the work he does at FDA prevents illnesses and helps people live better.

“When I say that “one foodborne illness is one too many,” I genuinely believe it,” he said.

“Frank has an undeniable ability to see the big picture and looks at the future of food safety with optimism and passion,” said Kerry Bridges, vice president of food safety and quality for Chipotle Mexican Grill, Newport Beach, Calif.

“It is impossible to work closely with him and not inherit similar beliefs in the power of creating a strong culture surrounding best practices and a desire to do more. It’s important to Frank to ensure his teams are always thinking about what emerging technology means to food safety. He gives them the tools and resources they need to try new things and break down barriers to a safe food supply.”

Yiannas came to this point in his career with the help of three key mentors, he said.

One is his late father, Haralambos Yiannas. “He taught me everything I know about hard work, character, never giving up, and caring for other.”

Another is Lee Cockerell, a now-retired Disney executive Yiannas worked under.

“To this day, I learned more about organizational leadership from Lee than any other person in my career, not by words or courses, but by watching him and observing what great leadership looked like,” he said.

“He was a gifted and talented leader who made me better.”

Rudy Wodzinski, a professor of microbiology at the University of Central Florida, helped guide his career.

“It was Dr. Wodzinski who is responsible for me majoring in microbiology and ultimately pursuing a career in food safety,” Yiannas said.

In working for Disney, Walmart and FDA, Yiannas said he is proud of several accomplishments.

  • Food Safety Culture. “I’m proud of the work I’ve done to advance the concepts of ‘food safety culture’ and behavioral change strategies as a credible subset of the food science profession,” Yiannas said. He noted publication of his first book, “Food Safety Culture,” and a second book titled Food Safety = Behavior, 30 Proven Behavioral Science Strategies to Strengthen Compliance.”
  • FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint. “I’m proud to have had the opportunity to serve as the architect of the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, which outlines the work the agency will undertake during the next 10 years to create a more digital, traceable, and safer food system,” he said.
  • Food traceability. “I’m proud to be recognized as a pioneer in using blockchain technology to create a more digital and transparent food system. My work was the first to show that by leveraging distributed ledger technology, the amount of time taken to trace the origin of a food back to source could be reduced from weeks and days down to seconds.”

Yiannas challenges his employees to not to settle for status quo and to reimagine how to tackle issues, said Natalie Dyenson, vice president of food safety and quality for Dole Food Co. Inc., Charlotte, N.C.

“I feel his ability to clearly see the path forward, his vision for the future for a program, is in large part what has made him successful,” she said.



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