Oklahoma State University’s food safety education program got a $100,000 boost last week from Lopez Foods Inc. “OSU’s food safety program is a wonderful opportunity for the university, students and food industry,” chief operating officer John Lopez said in a news release from the university.

John Patrick Lopez, chief operating officer for Lopez Foods Inc. (left), presents a check for $100,000 to Roy Escoubas, director for OSU’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center, to support the university’s food safety program. (Photo courtesy of OSU)
“We did not want to pass up the opportunity to help support the first undergraduate food safety program in the nation and to help fill the need for food safety careers in the industry.” The university in Stillwater, OK, created the food safety degree program in response to increasing demands for college graduates with specialized knowledge of food safety and the food processing sector. An advisory board for Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center (FAPC), a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helped develop the program. The initiative resulted in hiring a food safety specialist and assistant professor in the OSU Department of Animal Science and establishing an undergraduate food safety option. “We appreciate John Patrick and Lopez Foods for their support and leadership in making the food safety program a reality,” Roy Escoubas, FAPC director, said in the release. “We are so pleased about the future of the program and a continued partnership with Lopez Foods and many other companies as we aim to fill the need for highly trained graduates in food safety.” Lopez Foods originated as a spinoff of Wilson Foods, a meat packing company that was prominent until the 1980s. Originally known as Anderson Meats, a Wilson Foods subsidiary, Lopez Foods started producing fresh, frozen beef patties for McDonald’s in 1968. In 1992, John C. Lopez, a successful McDonald’s owner-operator from Southern California, purchased controlling interest of the company and rebranded the company to Lopez Foods in 1995 to reflect its diverse heritage. Lopez Foods was named the 2015 Supplier of the Year for McDonald’s. “Lopez Foods has been a partner of FAPC and OSU for some time with John Patrick serving on the FAPC Industry Advisory Committee and the current chair of the group,” Tom Coon, OSU vice president for agricultural programs, said in the release. “In addition to hiring graduates, Lopez has provided guidance and utilized FAPC for numerous services. We’re truly thankful for the generosity of John Patrick and Lopez Foods and for their support in growing the food safety program.” (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)