By Darlene A. White
Seattle, Washington – It’s been 40 years since Larry Keener, an Army veteran became an international microbiologist and process authority in the food industry.
I have been doing this type of work for a long time, says Keener.
Keener is now the president and chief executive officer of International Product Safety Consultants, Inc. (IPSC) based in Seattle, Washington. IPSC is a global leader in providing food safety and food technology solutions to the food processing industry for a broad client base of Fortune 500 food companies, academic research institutes, and government agencies.
His areas of expertise range from applied food microbiology, and the development and application of novel preservation technologies including high-pressure processing (HPP), microwave, pulsed electric field (PEF), high-powered ultrasound, atmospheric plasma, and low energy electron beam technology.
Keener was born and raised in Muskegon Heights. He attended Muskegon Heights Public Schools through the 10th grade and later moved to Los Angeles, where he graduated from George Washington Prep High School in 1967.
Keener says, he believes he was born to be a microbiologist.
“I believe we are all born microbiologists, I set out on this journey as a kid,” he explained. “Living in Muskegon Heights, we lived across an alley and a very substantial forest that my grandmother would hold my hand and walk me through, and she would explain what everything was in that forest to me.”
That forest turned into a big laboratory for Keener. At a young age, he started his career path in microbiology where he would study microscopic organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, archaea, fungi, and protozoa.
“There was a creek running through the forest, a pond, bees, crickets, snakes, and turtles,” he said. “All of that piqued my interest in biology. Since then, I have always been curious about the flora and the fauna of the forest.”
While growing up Keener says the person who made the biggest impact on his career was his grandmother. She was the person that introduced him to biology and the outdoors.
“My grandma would walk me through the woods and say, ‘son this is a marigold, it can help heal wounds,” he said. “My grandma showed me how different plants can do things to help the body. That made me curious about things.”
After graduating high school, Keener went to the Army. He is now a Vietnam-era veteran, having served in the United States Army as a Combat Medical Specialist – 5th Class.
“I did everything from putting on cast to lab work to X-rays,” Keener explained. “I would even pick a soldier up in the field and do surgery. You did what could to save lives.”
Keener later went to earn his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Berkeley in Microbiology with an emphasis in Bio-Environmental Sciences with advanced courses in the microbiology of Water and Wastewater.
In 2015, he co-wrote and edited a book titled, Regulating the Safety of Traditional and Ethnic Foods. This book examines a variety of traditional foods from around the world, their risks and benefits, and how regulatory steps may assist in establishing safe parameters for these foods without reducing their cultural or nutritive value in today’s diets
Keener continues to write papers and book chapters on food safety legislation and process validation.
“I normally get three to four invitations to write books or chapters per month,” he said.
Keener added that he enjoyed being a problem-solver throughout his career.
“People can call on me, I can go in do diagnostics, provide them with solutions that they can take to the F.D.A.,” he said. “That is where I derive the satisfaction of taking my technical knowledge to solve business problems.”