History in the Making
In December 1987, Dr. Fred Shank, the then director of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition rang up Dr. Darsh Wasan, the then interim dean of the Armour College of Engineering at Illinois Tech, looking for lab space in the Chicago area with pilot plant facilities. At that time, Illinois Tech housed the only academic department in the Chicago area that offered a food technology program.
Coincidently, at the same time, CPC International (now Ingredion) was looking to sell their research facilities at the Moffett Technical Center in Bedford Park, IL. One of the most advanced food laboratory facilities in the nation.
Fred and Darsh began to envision a collaborative center where food safety issues could be addressed through a neutral format by academia, government, and industry members. Darsh also saw the extraordinary potential for the Moffett Technical Center as a space to support their vision.
After connecting with CPC International’s George Hoff, an IIT alumnus and member of the department’s Industrial Advisory Committee, to inquire about the possibility of CPC donating these facilities to Illinois Tech, James Eiszner, the CEO of CPC at the time, recognized the value envisioned and subsequently donated the facilities to the university. Support was also provided by local food companies: Kraft, Quaker Oats, FMC, Wrigley, and Dean Foods. This included a supportive statement from the University of Illinois.
Ten months after that initial call and through a vigorous review process, the FDA awarded IIT a grant of $3.7 million creating the first FDA-funded center of excellence in September 1988, establishing the National Center for Food Safety and Technology. Due to the success of this center of excellence model, others have since been established by the FDA.
In recognizing the achievements of the NCFST twenty years later, the Executive Advisory Board (EAB) recommended elevating the center to an “institute” at Illinois Tech as the Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH). IFSH was dedicated in April of 2011.
In addition to the FDA’s Division of Food Processing Science and Technology co-located at the Illinois Tech Moffett campus, three new centers were created: the Center for Processing Innovation, the Center for Nutrition Research, and the Center for Specialty Programs.