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AMI Honors Richard G. Searer, Retired President of Kraft Foods North America, With Industry Advancement Award

Friday, October 30, 2009

CHICAGO, Ill. – Richard G. Searer, retired president of Kraft Foods North America and former chairman of the American Meat Institute (AMI) was honored today by AMI with its highest award: the Industry Advancement Award. The award was presented during AMI’s International Meat, Poultry & Seafood Convention & Exposition, part of Worldwide Food Expo, Oct. 28-31, at McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill.

In his 27 years in the food industry, Rick Searer has been a fierce competitor in and a steadfast proponent of the processed meat industry.  One of his most significant contributions has been as a food safety champion, leading the industry-wide effort to improve processed meat safety.  

“AMI is extremely pleased to honor Rick Searer for a tremendous career in our industry and within the Institute’s leadership,” said AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle. “Rick has been a great friend, colleague and leader for many of us personally and for our industry.”

In the late 1990s, while Oscar Mayer president, Listeria monocytogenes was recognized as a significant challenge to processed meat safety.  Searer commissioned an Oscar Mayer R&D task force to develop methods of minimizing the threat.  The result was the development, in conjunction with PURAC, of lactate/ diacetate technology to minimize the growth of L. monocytogenes in processed meats during storage.  Searer chose to share this important development with the industry.   It was estimated that by 2002, 70 percent of processed meats had incorporated the lactate/diacetate technology.  

In 2000, the use of sodium nitrite in processed meats was being reviewed by the government.  Searer directed Oscar Mayer staff to share their technical expertise with the entire industry.  The industry-wide Sodium Nitrite Advisory Committee, chaired by Oscar Mayer’s Andy Milkowski, Ph.D., developed and presented such compelling evidence that the National Toxicology Program determined that nitrite was a safe food additive. Searer’s leadership has had long-lasting, positive effects on the industry’s efforts to enhance the safety of meat and poultry products. 

“Largely as a result of Rick’s leadership, our industry has not had a recall related to Listeria illnesses since 2002,” said Boyle.  “That clearly represents a major industry advancement. Rick’s commitment to food safety and to a collegial exchange of information and technology with competing processed meat companies ushered in a new era at AMI and within the industry.  We are very pleased to honor Rick with the Institute’s highest award this year.”

The American Meat Institute was founded in 1906 and is the nation's oldest and largest meat and poultry trade association. It represents the interests of packers, processors, and suppliers of beef, pork, lamb, veal, and turkey products in North America. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Institute provides regulatory, legislative, technical, scientific, educational, and public relations services to the industry.


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