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Frank Yiannas is a renowned food safety leader and executive, food system futurist, author, professor, past president of the International Association of Food Protection, and advocate for consumers.  Most recently, he served under two different administrations as the Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a position he held from 2018 to 2023, after spending 30 years in leadership roles with two industry giants: Walmart and the Walt Disney Company. Through his career, Frank has been recognized for his role in strengthening food safety standards in new and innovative ways, as well and building effective food safety management systems based on modern,  science-based, and tech-enable prevention principles.

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As Deputy Commissioner at FDA, Frank led the development and execution of food safety-related policies, including implementation of the landmark FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). His leadership role within the Agency covered a broad spectrum of food safety priorities, such as outbreak response, traceback investigations, product recall activities, and supply chain innovation across the full spectrum of FDA-regulated food products. Deputy Commissioner Yiannas was, in effect, the Agency’s chief ambassador to reduce food safety risks and achieve high rates of compliance with FDA food safety standards, working to develop innovative collaborations with external partners and stakeholders and effective relationships with government and industry leaders, as well as consumer groups. While in federal service, he led the Agency’s food response to the COVID-19 pandemic and served on the White House Task Force on food supply chain issues. He was also the architect of FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety, which outlines the work the agency will undertake during the next 10 years to create a digital, more traceable, and safer food system.  Under the auspices of the New Era initiative, he launched FDA’s Seafood AI pilot, showing that new tools such a machine learning could dramatically enhance the agency’s ability to detect shipments of violative seafood products.  He also led the implementation of the 21 Forward platform, a first of its kind analytical tool that uses multiple sources of real-time data to monitor and support food supply chain resiliency.  And during his tenure, one of legacy lasting achievements was the development and finalization of the U.S. FDA’s Food Traceability Rule, which will transform the way the government and industry work together by creating a new level of food system transparency that will benefit consumers, food producers, and the planet.

At the world’s largest company, Walmart, which he joined in 2008 and served for over a decade, Mr. Yiannas was the Vice President for Food Safety. In this role, he helped lead the effort to make Walmart the first U.S. retailer to require suppliers to achieve certification against one of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarked food safety schemes. During his tenure, he became a globally recognized pioneer in using blockchain technology to create a more digital and transparent food system and is credited with leading the retailer’s efforts to require more advanced traceability. His work was the first to show that by leveraging 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. Based on this work, other major food companies are now exploring and using distributed ledger technology for greater food transparency and trust. 

Frank is also credited with being a pioneer in establishing the concept of “food safety culture” as a legitimate subset of the profession – and not just a slogan, having written the first book ever on this topic.  His real-world experiences in the food safety arena made him advocate that science and policy alone are not enough. Advancing food safety also requires an understanding of organizational culture and principles of human behavior. Engaging on this level to help shape an organization’s culture is the subject of his books Food Safety Culture, Creating a Behavior-based Food Safety Management System, and Food Safety = Behavior, 30 Proven Techniques to Enhance Employee Compliance. 

At Disney, where he worked for nearly 20 years, he was the Director of Safety and Health, where he oversaw food safety, Guest safety, and occupational safety and health. During his tenure, Disney received the prestigious Black Pearl Award for corporate excellence in food safety from the International Association for Food Protection. 

The recipient of numerous awards, in 2007, he received the National Science Foundation’s International Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership in Food Safety. He is also the recipient of the Collaboration Award by the US FDA in 2008 and he was named the 2015 Industry Professional Food Safety Hero Award by STOP Foodborne Illness, a consumer advocacy group. Mr. Yiannas is a past president of the International Association for Food Protection and a past vice-chairman of the Global Food Safety Initiative. He is also an adjunct Professor in the Food Safety Program at Michigan State University, and in 2017 was awarded the MSU Outstanding Faculty Award.


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