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2023 Southern California Food Industry Conference

Emerging Trends in Food Technology

March 1, 2023

This conference will be held virtually.

9:00 am Welcome Remarks
Elizabeth Cuff, SCFIC Chairman, SCIFTS President-Elect
9:10 am Introduction of Session Speakers
9:20 am Leadership in the New Era of Food Safety
Sean Leighton, Global Vice President of Food Safety, Quality, Regulatory
President-Elect of National IFT

How do we lead today and into the future, to ensure strong, safe, and resilient supply systems? Sean will share insights and perspective around the critical role of leadership and leadership development in this new era of food safety.

Biography: Sean Leighton is Cargill’s Global Vice President of Food Safety, Quality, and Regulatory. With a career spanning more than 15 years in the food and beverage industry, Sean has intimate knowledge of the science and standards that make food safe, and the strategies to ensure the quality of supply chains that feed the world.

Before joining Cargill in 2017, Sean served as Vice President of Quality Assurance, Safety, and Environmental Sustainability at The Coca-Cola Company, where he spent 12 years in roles of increasing responsibility. He also worked at Land O’ Lakes Incorporated.

Sean’s passion for food safety and quality extends beyond Cargill. He is the incoming president for the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and sits on the advisory board of many organizations including, but not limited to IAFP’s Journal of Food Protection, The Center for Food Safety (UGA), GMA’s Science & Education Foundation, and the Food Fraud Think Tank (MSU). Sean holds a Bachelor’s degree in bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Master of Science degree in food science from the University of Minnesota, and an MBA from Emory University.

9:45 am Food Law-Plastics and Water
John A. Belcher, Principal
The Law Offices of John A. Belcher

Biography: As a civil litigator in the Los Angeles area for over thirty years, John Belcher has been “first chair” for over 100 arbitrations, court trials and jury trials from the Mexican border to Santa Barbara County. John’s firm that bears his name represents plaintiffs in a wide variety of business disputes ranging from unfair competition, theft of trade secrets, franchise violations and distributorship conflicts. In 2019, John was named among the top attorneys in Southern California by Los Angeles Magazine and he also won the 2019 International Advisory Experts Award for Business Litigation Law within California.

John’s prior employment included Partner at Hanna & Morton and Kindel & Anderson as well as Shareholder at Richards, Watson & Gershon. John served as Deputy District Attorney for Contra Costa County (California).

John is an alum of the University of California at Berkeley and recipient of the Alexander Meicklejohn Award and the Medaille Voltaire. He attended Boalt Hall School of Law where he was selected to serve as an Extern Clerk to the Honorable Cecile Poole of the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit. While enrolled at Boalt, John served under Stanley Sporkin in the S.E.C. Division of Enforcement, Summer Honors Program as a Charter Selectee. Website:

10:10-10:30 Re-Tooling Technical Leaders to Lead Food Safety Culture
Jill Stauber and Tia Glave, Co-Founders
Catalyst LLC

The first step to improving food safety culture is ensuring technical teams have the proper tools to lead the changes we want to see. Stauber and Glave will explore why a specialized curriculum and a strategic approach to leadership development are key to re-tooling technical experts to be the technical leaders who champion food safety culture.

Biography: Tia Glave and Jill Stuber partnered to create Catalyst in 2021. They assist businesses in building world-class food safety and quality cultures by developing leadership teams with strong technical food safety and quality skills. Catalyst sparks transformation by instilling strong people skills to provide a roadmap for food manufacturers and retail organizations to build sustainable food safety cultures. Their experience and client base spans multi-million-dollar food manufacturing companies, food retailers, and start-up food environments. They bring insights at both corporate levels and front-line facility levels. Tia Glave is formally trained as a Chemical Engineer and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee. She is a qualified individual trained in PCQI and FSVP, versed in GFSI schemes, and has worked with many product categories including dairy, frozen and refrigerated baked goods, seafood, frozen pasta, and baby food. Tia's passion also extends to championing black talent in food safety and quality. She's the founder of the Black Professionals in Food Safety Group to foster sharing, development, and connection to support black talent. Tia is an active member of International Association for Food Protection, serving as the Retail & Food Service Professional Development Group Vice Chair. Jill Stuber holds Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Food Science from the University of Wisconsin, River Falls and Madison, respectively; as well as a Master of Science degree in Quality Management from Eastern Michigan University. She is a professional coach certified through Learning Journeys - an accredited program through the International Coaching Federation, HACCP Certified, PCQI Certified, an SQF Practitioner, an Institute of Food Technology (IFT) Certified Food Scientist, a Lean Facilitator, and a Six Sigma Black Belt. Jill is an active member of International Association for Food Protection, serving as the Developing Food Safety Professional's Professional Development Group Vice Chair. Website:

10:30-10:45 Question and Answer Session
Food Safety / Food Law
Interactive Speaker Panel

10:45-11:00 Break
11:00 am Introduction of Session Speakers
11:100 am Improperly Discarded Plastic Food Packaging
Dr. Jack Cooper, Executive Director
Animal Digestable Food Packaging Initative

Abstract: A significant amount of plastic food packaging finds its way into landfills, land in general, and waterways where it is left to degrade into macro-, micro- and nano- sized plastic particles. Global research is studying biological effects on wildlife and marine food sources. Legislative and regulatory mandates are being developed, including the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors are being considered by investors and consumers while averting lawsuits for alleged false environmental claims and addressing positive social and mainstream media attention.

Biography: Jack Cooper is Executive Director of the Animal Digestible Food Packaging Initiative. The mission of this self-funding initiative is to encourage the food processing industry to support development of new food packaging materials that would be digestible by animals. He broadly characterizes his initiative as serving farm animals all the way to ubiquitous microbes. Jack holds BS and MS degrees in Food Science from the University of California at Davis (UCD). He spent time working in Extension at UCD, 16 years with the National Canners Association/National Food Processors Association (thirteen as Director, Environmental Affairs). Jack capped off his career with 26 years as the Founder and Partner with Food Industry Environmental Network (, a regulatory and government actions alerting service. Jack founded the Animal Digestible Food Packaging Initiative in 2017 upon his retirement. Website

11:35 am Bio-based and Biodegradable Alternatives To Plastic in Packaging
Jessica Bowman, Executive Director
Plant Based Products Council

Abstract: This presentation will address bio-based and biodegradable packaging and food service items that reduce our reliance on petroleum-based plastics, along with consumer perspectives on these sustainable alternatives.

Biography: Jessica Bowman serves as the Plant Based Products Council’s (PBPC) Executive Director, where she leads the organization’s efforts in advocating for the expanded use of renewable, plant-based materials to help guide the global economy toward a circular model. Jessica joined PBPC in 2019 to provide the growing bioeconomy with an industry voice for both policy advocacy and education on Capitol Hill and beyond. She collaborates with PBPC members which include early-phase startups and Fortune 500 companies, on their sustainability efforts, legislative priorities, and awareness initiatives. As an engineer and lawyer, Jessica plays a unique role in bridging the gap between today’s biobased innovations and policies that encourage their broader adoption, including legislation that supports more robust end-of-life infrastructure such as composting and recycling. Jessica joins PBPC from the American Chemistry Council, where she served as Executive Director of the FluoroCouncil, representing the world’s leading manufacturers of fluorinated chemicals (PFAS). She also previously served as Senior Director of Environmental Affairs for the Airports Council International – North America. Jessica holds a J.D. with a concentration in environmental law from University of Maryland School of Law and a B.S. in GeoEnvironmental Engineering from Penn State University. Website

12:00 pm Fresh Produce and Sustainable Packaging
Jeffrey S. Brandenberg
JSB Group, President
Q Fresh Lab, Founder

Abstract: The challenges of moving to a more sustainable package for fresh produce is daunting because it is a living breathing organism. These challenges and how this impacts the choices and technologies will be discussed.

Biography: Jeffrey Brandenberg and JSB Group LLC provides technical and educational resources to the global flexible packaging and fresh food industries. His group provides expertise in a wide variety of packaging and equipment technologies including post-harvest physiology, food safety, food regulations, fresh cut produce, MAP, barrier packaging, peelable lidding structures, forming materials, and stand-up pouch technology.

Previous positions Jeffrey held include vice president of marketing and technical services with New England Extrusion Inc.; technical director and vice president technical services for Union Industries; technical director at Amgraph Packaging; technical manager for Guardian Packaging; and quality assurance supervisor and process engineer for American Can Corporation.

He co-authored the Modified Atmosphere Packaging (“MAP”) chapter for CRC’s latest publication on modified and controlled atmospheres. He serves on the food safety and technology council of the United Fresh Produce Association. Jeffrey has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Iowa State University, with a minor in biomedical engineering, and a Master of Science degree in food safety from Michigan State University. He is an adjunct professor in packaging at University of California, Davis and Chapman University in Orange, California. He is Certified by The National Good Agricultural Practice Program at Cornell University as a GAPs (Good Agricultural Practices) online produce safety course instructor for the state of Massachusetts GAP training program. Website and

12:20 pm Question and Answer Session
Food Packaging
Interactive Speaker Panel

12:30 pm LUNCH
1:20 pm Introduction of Session Speakers
1:15-1:45 The Health Effects of a Plant Based Diet
Matthew J. Landry, Ph.D., RDN, LDN
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Stanford Prevention Research Center

Abstract: Plant‐based diets, diets that emphasize higher intakes of plant foods and lower intakes of animal foods, are associated with a lower risk of incident cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease mortality, and all‐cause mortality in a general US adult population. This presentation will cover the components of a healthful plant-based diet and discuss emerging trends within the plant-based food, beverage, and ingredient product space.

Biography: Matthew J. Landry is a postdoctoral research scholar and registered dietitian nutritionist in the Stanford Prevention Research Center in the School of Medicine at Stanford University. He is currently the Plant-Based Diet Initiative fellow. His current research focuses on identifying the optimal diet (or diets) for chronic disease prevention, addressing the methodological challenges of designing, implementing, and reporting clinical trials that test dietary patterns, and quantifying behavioral and environmental factors that influence what people are eating and how much of it is driven by inequities and social justice issues.

Matthew is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the 2022 recipient of the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award and was the recipient of the Obesity Society’s Ethan Sims Young Investigator Award. He received the BS degree in Nutrition and Food Sciences from Louisiana State University and completed a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences and dietetic internship at The University of Texas, Austin. Website

1:55 pm Four Hits and Misses To Labeling Plant-Based Foods
Debra Tophman, Director & Owner
knowledge bank

Abstract: Plant-based foods often wear a halo of better-for-you attributes and claims. This might be inspired by scientific publications & press releases of select ingredients. However, on packaged foods, the wording is not always compliant with FDA and FTC regulations &/or enforcement discretion. This overview will highlight hits and misses related to four compliance targets, including FDA’s proposed update to “healthy” claims

Biography: Debra Topham’s consulting company, Knowledge Bank, provides “health checkups” for food and supplement labels as well as substantiation reports for nutrient and product claims. Her Huntington Beach, CA consulting service checks that USA product labels & sell sheets—including nutrient and health claims—are in compliance with FDA, USDA, and FTC regulations. Debra is a 30-year industry veteran with experience at Fresh&Easy Neighborhood Market and the Nutrilite Division of Amway. She is a Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Food Scientist as well as guest lecturer at Chapman University and California Polytechnic University. Debra holds Bachelor's and Master's of Science degrees in food and nutrition and communications from North Dakota State University (Fargo). Website:

2:25 pm Question and Answer Session
Food Packaging
Interactive Speaker Panel

2:40 pm Closing Statement, Continuing Education
and Raffle

Registration Fees:

  1. $ 25.00 - SCIFTS Member
  2. $ 35.00 - Non-Member
  3. $ 15.00 - Student

Registration closes February 27, 2023


Cancellation Policy: Refunds less $10 handling fee will be available up to 48 hours before the start of the conference. After that time, no refunds will be offered.

  1. Schedule and speakers are subject to change without notice. Speaker list is current as of January 20, 2023. Organizers may make substitutions at their sole discretion.
  2. Photography, recording, video-taping, or other digital retention methods by conference attendees is not included in the conference fees nor permitted except for SCIFTS use in promotion of the organization. Contact speakers directly if you wish more information about their topic and if they have handouts available.
  3. SCIFTS intends to take photo stills and video of this event for use in SCIFT news and promotional material, in print, electronic and other media, including the SCIFTs website. By participating in the virtual event, you grant SCIFTs the right to use any image, photograph, video, voice, or likeness, without limitation, in its promotional materials and publicity efforts without compensation. All media become the property of SCIFTs. Media may be displayed, distributed, or used by SCIFTS for any purpose.
  4. Must be present to win raffle prizes.
  5. Certified Food Scientist (CFS) recertification contact hours pending.
  6. Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs)/Nutrition and Dietetics Technicians, Registered (NDTRs) continuing professional education units pending.


February 15, 2023

Joint Meeting with RCA
Village Green Foods

March 1, 2023

So. CA Food Industry Conference (SCFIC)

March 9, 2023

Suppliers Night Expo
Hyatt Regency Orange County
Garden Grove

April 19, 2023

Dinner Meeting
Gaucho Grill
Buena Park

March 7-11, 2023

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Southern California Institute of Food Technologists Section | P.O. Box 3724, Orange, CA 92857 | 714.282.0919 |