Food engineer provides mastery of food safety for research projects

Growing up, Angela Tellez-Lance, PhD, wanted to be a professional dancer, but her parents convinced her that was a difficult path in which to make a living. Instead, she became an engineer and a highly respected food scientist.

Considered a unique combination of skills, Tellez-Lance has earned international recognition for her expertise in food microbiology, food quality, risk analysis and incident management. She has designed and implemented processes to solve food safety problems efficiently and has trained more than 1,800 food safety managers and directors in larger companies.

“I help companies to improve productivity, reduce food safety risk, and comply with regulatory and customer quality requirements using a combination of experience, analytical skills and actionable tools to find practical solutions,” explains Tellez-Lance.

And since 2018, Tellez-Lance has provided her expertise as a research lead and senior food safety and risk analysis expert for Niagara College’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre.

When it comes to food safety, research staff at the CFWI Innovation Centre work closely with industry partners to help them in the resolution of complex problems, reviewing the safety and regulatory compliance of new products, implementing food safety management systems, and designing and conducting validation studies.

“The students have the opportunity to learn about the challenges that processing companies face and be part of the team working on the project.”

The CFWI Innovation Centre uses a holistic approach to food innovation, where the product development team and the food safety experts work in parallel to develop successful, novel and safe products, explains Tellez-Lance.

“We use food safety risk analysis to help manufacturers to protect their brand, build consumer trust and loyalty.”

For more than 60 applied research projects, Tellez-Lance has conducted risk assessments for new and existing products, written proposals for companies applying to funding to conduct food safety projects, conducted gap assessments for manufacturing companies, and toured processing facilities, among many other endeavours.

She was actively involved with the inaugural 2019 Niagara Food and Beverage Innovation Summit, hosted by Research & Innovation, and was an organizer of and speaker for the CFWI Innovation Centre Food Safety Workshop 2019 at the Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

And in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Tellez-Lance has participated in several virtual conferences. She was on the judging panel for the SIAL Canada’s pitch competition and was a panellist on the North American Food Safety & Summit 2020.

“It is important to share the work we are doing at the CFWI Innovation Centre,” she says. “Many food manufacturing companies are looking for help on getting more competitive, but they don’t know where to find technical resources.”

Born and raised in Colombia, Tellez-Lance received a Bachelor’s degree in Process Engineering from Universidad Industrial de Santander. She headed to the United States in 1997 to earn a Master’s degree in Food Engineering at Texas A&M University, and then to Canada to do her PhD in Food Science (Food Microbiology) at the University of Guelph, graduating in 2009.

“Many food manufacturing companies are looking for help on getting more competitive,
but they don’t know where to find technical resources.”

In addition to her role at R&I, Tellez-Lance is currently the risk analysis and food expert adviser for Synthesis Food Consulting Group, where she supports food manufacturing and related organizations to comply with food safety regulations. Prior to that she served as director of operations at the Guelph Food Innovation Centre at the University of Guelph. She has had broad industry experience and has worked in large North American companies such as The Kraft Heinz Company, where she was the food safety and microbiology lead for Canada.  

Earlier in her career and while operations manager at the Canadian Research Institute of Food Safety at the University of Guelph, Tellez-Lance developed food safety training material such as the “Maple Leaf Food Safety Education.” She also served as the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) development analyst at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Looking back and considering her decision to choose engineering over dance, Tellez-Lance says she’s grateful to her parents for giving her “the best advice ever.”

And yet, she did go on to become a proficient salsa and merengue dancer recreationally.

While fluent in English and Spanish, she added another language to her repertoire during the early days of the COVID-19 lock-down when she started learning French each day.

Tellez-Lance lives in Cambridge with her husband and when possible, loves spending time with her two grown children and extended family.