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Rich Linton

Professor of Food Science
Associate Director for Agricultural Research Programs

Serving up safety guidelines for diners, industry and regulatory agencies

The next time you grab a bite to eat at a restaurant, think of Rich Linton, whose work in food safety may help you dodge food poisoning.

Linton’s contributions to food safety are wide-ranging. Among the items in his extensive catalogue of accomplishments are a series of food safety courses he developed for food producers, food processors, restaurants and grocery stores. The courses have helped countless businesses in Indiana and throughout the U.S. comply with food safety regulations.

Linton is founder of Purdue's Center for Food Safety Engineering. He is a consensus-builder, who brings together regulatory bodies, researchers and food safety stakeholders to set policy. He is a member of the Conference for Food Protection, where he helps create regulatory guidelines for the federal Food and Drug Administration. And he is a researcher. His recent work focuses on the use of chlorine dioxide gas to reduce the risk of food-borne pathogens on the surface of produce and extend shelf life.

Motivational factors: This problem-solver works in many settings, but he especially likes the challenge of working with industry, where immediate results are needed and can be readily seen. “I've got to see my research have an impact in the short and long term,” Linton says. "I need to know this is going to help the food industry, regulatory agencies and academic organizations.”

Personal rewards: Linton takes heart in having created an environment at the Center for Food Safety Engineering where others can succeed. His work has personal pay-off, too. “A lot of what I do is coordinating projects and fighting to get projects funded. And that fighting has gotten funding that's turned into some valuable research outcomes.”

Personal inspiration: Linton cites Randy Woodson (former Purdue provost and current chancellor of North Carolina State University), who hired him as an assistant director in the office of Agricultural Research Programs, as his most influential mentor. “He understands science. He's an outstanding communicator, he understands people, he listens, and he's always moving forward,” Linton says. “If I could try to capture some of those qualities, I'd be pleased.”

On the run, even off-duty: "My wife challenged me to run the Indianapolis Mini Marathon at age 40 and I did it! And now I do it every year. I set new goals for the race each year and find ways to better myself."

Personal ties: "I think my colleagues would be surprised to know that I consider this Purdue experience more than a job and to know how much I care about personal interactions here. It's a community more than anything. When someone succeeds, I feel it and celebrate with them. When something doesn't go the way they want it to go, I feel that pain, too."

By Brian Wallheimer
Photos by: Andrew Hancock