Diez to Lead Center for Food Safety

Francisco Diez
UGA Center for Food Safety

For years, food scientist Francisco Diez studied and admired the work of University of Georgia Regents’ Professor Mike Doyle. Over the next year, they will work together as Diez transitions into Doyle’s role as director of the UGA Center for Food Safety in Griffin, Georgia.

Doyle, a leading authority on foodborne pathogens, came to the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 1991 to establish the center. As director, he developed a research program that promotes collaboration among the food industry, the university and federal and state agencies.

A native of Mexico, Diez earned a bachelor’s degree in food technology from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education and completed his master’s and doctoral degrees in food science at Cornell University. He comes to UGA from the University of Minnesota, where he was a faculty member and head of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition. His research focuses on a variety of pathogens that include salmonella, enterohemorrhagic E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes, leading causes of foodborne illness.

While transitioning into retirement, Doyle will introduce Diez to the network he has built with the food industry, consumer groups and government agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I can’t even imagine walking into the door without his help,” Diez said. “Close working relationships like the ones Mike has built require trust and they are critical to the success of the center.”

Diez plans to reach out to the center’s network of stakeholders in the food industry for advice and recommendations. “I want to know what their hopes and expectations are for the Center for Food Safety at UGA,” he said.

As the new center director, Diez will also be rebuilding the center’s faculty by replacing current vacancies in virology, epidemiology and microbiology.

“The college is committed to refilling these open positions, and our facilities and laboratories are in good shape,” Diez said. “Then we will develop a long-term strategy to expand our center to the international level. We are already known across the United States. I see the center making a huge impact on solving the problems related to foodborne pathogen contamination around the world. The opportunities are endless.”