Thermal Processing Professional Training Program - 2013

Glenn Black, Ph.D., director of science operations, food protection, provides leadership and direction for research and member services related to food processing and microbiological safety. He co-manages over 20 scientists and professional technical staff in the disciplines of chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, processing technologies, packaging and product forensics.

Prior to joining GMA, Dr. Black held positions with the Pepsi-Cola Company, the Facility Group (food plant construction), Stork Food & Dairy Systems and Unilever (Slim Fast Foods division). He has published a number of articles in recognized food journals dealing with microbial modeling and inactivation.

Dr. Black earned his B.S. and M.S. in Agricultural Engineering at Clemson University and his Ph.D. in food science from the University of Tennessee.

Chris Balestrini, senior scientist, processing technologies, provides practical thermal processing expertise to GMA members in a wide array of package and retort systems. Chris Balestrini has served as a senior scientist, processing technologies at GMA since March of 2005.

Mr. Balestrini is a 1988 graduate of The Pennsylvania State University. Prior to joining GMA, he was employed at ConAgra Foods (formerly International Home Foods; American Home Foods) for more than 15 years as a corporate process authority. In this capacity, he was responsible for the development of process schedules, process deviation evaluations, critical factor control, new technology evaluation, process engineering, and commissioning new retort systems.

Mr. Balestrini has been a member of the Institute of Thermal Processing Specialists since 1990.

Bradley Shafer, senior scientist, processing technologies, joined GMA (then the National Canners Association) in 1977 as a Microbiologist but shifted focus to thermal processing providing assistance to the Association’s membership in traditional canning procedures, aseptic processing and  packaging, inoculated pack testing, and thermal processing system operations. Mr. Shafer played a key role in developing procedures recognized today as necessary for evaluation of aseptic processing and packaging systems.

Mr. Shafer earned an M.A. in Biological Science from San Jose State University with a focus on Clostridium botulinum recovery, detection, spore crop preparation and mouse assay techniques. He is an instructor for Better Process Control Schools, workshops on thermal process development and deviations, and company-specific seminars on aseptic and conventional processing.

Richard Podolak, Ph.D., senior scientist, processing technologies, assists GMA members with thermal processing recommendations for acidified, water activity controlled food products, process cheese products, food safety and sanitation issues. Dr. Podolak is also an instructor for Better Process Control Schools, the workshop on thermobacteriology and the workshop on thermal processing of acidified foods for FDA inspectors.

Prior to joining GMA in 2004, he worked for the USDA/ARS where he was involved with researching hydrodynamic pressure processing to control pathogens in meat. Richard also served as a senior scientist at the research and development department of a food ingredient company in Wisconsin for more than five years. There he developed microbial starter cultures, antimicrobial agents for meat products and significantly reduced the cost of production through process optimization. He has published numerous articles in scientific journals on the subject of pathogenic bacteria control in food products, especially meat.

Dr. Podolak earned his Ph.D. in food science from Kansas State University.

Regina Hildwine, senior director, science policy, labeling and standards is the GMA liaison between the industry and government agencies on food labeling technical and policy subjects and joined GMA in 1982. Ms. Hildwine answers numerous questions from GMA members about labeling regulations, and many in the food industry consider her a point source of information on food labeling rules. In the international arena, she has participated on the U.S. delegations to three Codex Alimentarius committees and has participated for nearly 20 years on the Codex Committee on Food Labeling.

Ms. Hildwine is a Phi Beta Kappa, cum laude graduate of Trinity University, Washington, DC, and holds an M.A. from the University of Maryland, with further graduate study at Princeton University.

Lloyd Hontz, senior director, science policy, compliance and inspection is responsible for providing guidance on technical, scientific, regulatory and legislative issues affecting the meat and poultry industry. Mr. Hontz’s work has focused on United States Department of Agriculture/Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) policies and procedures. He serves as liaison between GMA’s meat and poultry processing members and FSIS on a wide range of inspection issues. He has for over 20 years functioned as staff secretary for the GMA Meat, Poultry and Egg Products Committee, which recently expanded its scope to deal with FDA regulatory issues and changed its name to the Regulatory Inspection and Compliance Committee. He has served the Association and its members for over 34 years.

A native of North Carolina, Mr. Hontz holds a BS in food science from North Carolina State University and an MSPH in environmental science from the University of North Carolina. He first joined the National Canners Association in 1969; served three years in the US Army in the early 1970’s stationed at Natick Laboratories; obtained his master's degree; and returned to the Association in 1977.

Melinda Hayman, Ph.D., director, microbiology is a food microbiologist specializing in Food Safety.  Melinda received her Ph.D. in Food Science from the Pennsylvania State University and a B.S. Hons in Microbiology and Biochemistry from the University of Sydney.  Melinda joined GMA in 2012 as Director of Microbiology.  In this role she oversees critical food safety research, supports membership through technical and laboratory services and interacts with many segments of the food industry, as well as the academic and food regulatory communities, in order to track and interpret food safety issues and deliver effective solutions.

Prior to joining GMA, Melinda was the Director of Technical Services at Food Safety Net Services, where she managed Laboratory Quality Systems, Training, Method Validation, and Special Projects.  In addition, Melinda worked as a Food Microbiologist for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Sydney, Australia.

Ai Kataoka, associate scientist, microbiology is responsible for conducting scientific research projects in the area of microbiological food safety/stability and laboratory services such as food microbiology testing related to quality control issues and foodborne pathogen screening analysis. 

Ms. Kataoka earned her BS in food science and technology from Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology and MS in food science from Kansas State University.

Elena Enache, Ph.D., senior scientist, microbiology is responsible for leading microbiology research and providing innovative food safety solutions to GMA membership.  Dr Enache ensures that GMA’s food safety research aligns with organizational strategic plans, as well as preparing proposals, protocols and reports and conducting research. The following research projects were recently conducted under her leadership: “Heat Resistance of Histamine-Producing Bacteria in Irradiated Tuna Loins” and “Thermal Inactivation and Survival of Salmonella in Food as a Function of Water Activity (aw) and Fat Level.”  Other research interests include survival and heat resistance studies of vegetative pathogens and spoilage organisms in an array of food products.  She also supports GMA membership by providing technical expertise in food safety and microbiology.

Dr. Enache earned her Ph.D. in microbiology from the Institute of Biological Sciences – Central Institute of Biology, Bucharest, and her MS in microbiology and immunology from University of Bucharest, Romania. She is a laureate of Academy Prize “Emanoil Teodorescu” for biological sciences (1986) of the Romanian Academy (the highest scientific distinction in Romania, given once in a lifetime).  Dr. Enache has published more than 16 research articles and book chapters on food safety.

Daniel W. Howell, director, claims laboratory, conducts analyses in areas of container integrity issues, reasons for container failure, corrosion issues and identification of foreign substances. Mr. Howell has 15 years of SEM/EDS and FTIR experience and works closely with the claims lab investigating and identifying alleged foreign objects.

Mr. Howell earned his B.S. in biology from Virginia Tech.

Kevin Koshute, associate scientist, chemistry, works in the forensics and packaging laboratory and performs container integrity testing and foreign objective identification using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy. Mr. Koshute joined GMA in August 2010. He previously worked as a Thermal Processing Technician for the National Food Processors Association from March 1989 to March 1993. He also worked as a Manufacturing Associate for Human Genome Sciences located in Rockville, Maryland.

Mr. Koshute earned his B.S. in Biotechnology from The Pennsylvania State University.

Carla Napier, laboratory technician, microbiology, completes quality assurance analyses for member companies. Ms. Napier performs commercial sterility testing, low-acid QA analyses, acidified QA analyses and recovery testing for identification purposes. She provides technical support for all research endeavors and continues to serve as a resource for food and beverage companies by providing food safety information through educational workshops and newsletters.

Ms. Napier earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in microbiology from George Mason University.