Food Research Institute timeline: Keeping food safe for 70 years

The past 70 years have brought many changes in the food supply. The world has evolved from a system where food largely was restricted to what was available locally at any given time to one where consumers can purchase an array of fresh and processed foods year round. Along with the globalization of the food industry, awareness of food safety risks and the ability to mitigate them has greatly broadened throughout the years.

The Food Research Institute (FRI) has played a key role in food safety developments since its inception in 1946 by Dr. Gail Dack at the University of Chicago. FRI was designed to help food producers identify food safety problems and develop and validate methods to prevent or eliminate pathogens in various food products. This effort continued after Dr. Edwin “Mike” Foster spearheaded the transfer of FRI to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1966. Since, FRI has continued to work with its food industry partners to increase the safety of the food supply.

To celebrate its 70th anniversary since its founding and 50th year at UW-Madison, FRI has compiled a timeline to note key events and accomplishments throughout its history. Here are some items of note from FRI’s early years:

  • 1967: FRI scientist Dr. Merlin Bergdoll isolated, identified, and purified enterotoxins A, B, C, and E from Staphylococcus aureus. This led to the development of tests to detect enterotoxins in food.
  • 1970–72: FRI scientists Dr. Bibhuti DasGupta and Dr. Hiroshi Sugiyama purified and sequenced botulinum neurotoxins involved in the disease botulism.
  • 1980–95: FRI scientist Dr. Fun Sun Chu purified and prepared antibodies against numerous mycotoxins, contributing substantially to the detection and control of mycotoxin contamination worldwide.
  • 1981: Botulinum toxin produced by FRI scientist Dr. Ed Schantz was used in the first experiments for therapeutic use of the toxin (Botox).
  • 1983: A toxin produced by Staphylococcus aureus was identified as a causitive agent of toxic shock syndrome by Dr. Bergdoll.
  • 1985: FRI’s Dr. Mike Doyle conducted early work on the survival and growth of coli O157:H7
  • 1985: FRI scientist Dr. Mike Pariza discovered that conjugated linoleic acid inhibits cancer.

To learn more about FRI’s history, view the full timeline. A list of FRI alumni also is available.