Remembering Dr. John Hathcock

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Alexandria, VA–Dr. John Hathcock, who served as senior vice president, scientific & international affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) until his retirement in 2012, passed away on April 30, 2019.

Those who knew Dr. Hathcock reflected on what a honor it was to have worked beside him. Announcing the passage of their “beloved and revered” colleague, CRN described Dr. Hathcock as a “great force” who leaves a lasting imprint on the association and the global industry.

Dr. John Hathcock

“John was the embodiment of CRN’s ‘science behind the supplements’ tagline, with his steadfast dedication to the use of risk assessment to establish science-based maximums for nutrients,” CRN President & CEO Steve Mister said in a press release. “But John was also the quintessential ‘southern gentleman,’ and his warmth, quick wit and humor touched those fortunate enough to know him personally.”

Dr. Hathcock’s career spans four decades. He received his Ph.D. in nutrition from Cornell University, according to CRN, then served as a professor at Iowa State University before spending nearly a decade at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a senior scientist. He then joined CRN, serving for 17 years from 1995 to 2012 before retiring.

Calling Dr. Hathcock a “master mentor,” Andrew Shao, Ph.D., interim senior vice president, scientific & regulatory affairs of CRN, reflected on his life and accomplishments. Among them: Dr. Hathcock’s concept of “Observed Safe Levels”–or OSL–which he developed when authoring CRN’s first edition of the Vitamin & Mineral Safety Book. “[OSL] was revolutionary and preceded any formal recognition by many years,” said Dr. Shao. “It was meant to address those nutrients for which there was ample safety data, but for which no Upper Level (UL) could be derived.”

Governments throughout the world followed this example, and, as Dr. Shao explains, the World Health Organization (WHO) formally recognized this approach in 2006, but used a different term: Highest Observed Intake (HOI). “Although John was clearly the pioneer of this approach, he never received formal recognition or credit from any government body or organization for this. Still, being John, he was never concerned with getting credit, he only cared that folks finally got it right. Now governments all over the world use this approach.”

Dr. Hathcock’s obituary can be found here.

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