Food safety, health and wellness, and sustain-ability will be hot button topics as food science professionals from around the world gather this summer in Chicago for the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) 2013 Annual Meeting and Food Expo. The annual event will take place July 13-16 at McCormick Place South in Chicago.

More than 1,000 companies are expected to exhibit, more than 100 educational sessions will take place, and 1,200 poster presentations will provide information on the latest developments and trends in food science. The conference this year also will feature several new events, including a few that will give attendees more opportunities to network.

This year’s keynote session at the IFT will feature Fareed Zakaria. Dr. Zakaria is host of CNN’s "Fareed Zakaria GPS", editor-at-large ofTIME, and a columnist withThe Washington Post. Dr. Zakaria’s presentation comes at a critical time for food professionals who face extreme food challenges in both developed and developing nations. During his keynote address, Dr. Zakaria will explore these complex challenges, including food waste, food safety, food insecurity and limitations on natural resources. Dr. Zakaria’s presentation will take place July 14 at 8:30 a.m.

This year’s IFT also will feature three Beacon lectures. On July 14 at 4 p.m., Catherine Geslain-Laneelle, executive director of the European Food Safety Authority, will chart European progress in establishing evidence-based food policy as well as identify the key future challenges facing the risk assessment community. Geslain-Laneelle has been executive director of the EFSA since 2006, and also has served as a risk manager in the European Commission and France, and as chair of the Codex Alimentarius Committee on General Principles.

On July 15 at 4 pm, David Robson, head of energy and environmental foresight for the Scottish Government, will discuss his work leading an international government security community (under the Global Futures Forum) working on a range of issues that contribute to human and natural resource security — such as energy, environmental degradation, water and food security, global health, climate change and bio-diversity.

Also on July 15, at 7 pm, Mark J. Manary will discuss his work on eliminating the malnutrition epidemic affecting children in Africa and development of ready-to-use therapeutic food for use in home-based therapy. Manary is the Helene B. Roberson professor of pediatrics at Washington Univ. in St. Louis and director of the Global Harvest Alliance, a joint venture between St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Washington Univ., and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

Opportunities to learn abound

Education sessions at the IFT are organized into program tracks. Several tracks of interest to food and beverage companies this year include food safety and defense; food health and nutrition; food processing and packaging; product development and ingredient innovations; sustainability; public policy, food laws and regulations; food microbiology; food chemistry; food engineering; and sensory science.

Unintentional and intentional contamination will be topics of discussion within the food safety and defense track. Also within the track, education sessions will touch on the safety of packaging materials, unintended consequences of reformulating foods for addressing dietary guidelines and/or consumer trends, and early detection of foodborne illnesses and outbreaks.

Education sessions to be held within the product development and ingredient innovations track will include formulating for dietary restrictions, allergies and intolerances, including gluten-free applications and sodium reduction, as well as formulating for weight management and reduction through sweeteners, fats and oils, and satiety.

The sustainability track will showcase the efforts of food industry, academia and government to develop and ensure a sustainable food supply. The science and technology to support efforts in food sufficiency, sustainable product development and packaging, ingredient sourcing and food production, and waste management will be addressed.

The public policy, food laws and regulations track will discuss the practical, real-world implications for the food industry of legislative, regulatory and judicial developments on a US and global scale. The track will include issues in such areas as food safety and food defense, food labeling and marketing, and import/export requirements for food.

Back by popular demand

According to the IFT, 93 percent of attendees were satisfied with the overall course quality of the expo’s short courses during 2012. As a result, 10 different short courses, ranging in length from a half day to two-and-a-half days, will be held at the Hilton Chicago July 11-13.

Successful returning courses for 2013 include food science for the non-food scientist, flavor interactions in foods, and labeling requirements and implications for foods marketed in the United States. New courses for 2013 include new applications and products using soy, advances in commercialization of non-thermal processing, and antioxidants: fundamentals, applications and health effects.

Other options for expo goers

In addition to education sessions, the IFT exposition features a wide range of exhibitors of ingredients and services geared toward the product development process.

The 2013 IFT annual meeting and food expo also once again will host several competitions for exhibitors, professionals and students. For exhibitors, the association will award its IFT Food Expo Innovation Awards. The awards are presented prior to the opening of the exposition, and are intended to highlight industry innovation. Winners in 2012 included Glanbia Nutritionals for its OptiSol 2000 binding system for sugar reduction; Ecolab for its RAC residual antimicrobial coatings program; Ampac for its No. 2 recyclable pouch made from a coextruded film blend of predominantly high-density polyethylene; and Advantix Systems for its liquid desiccant dehumidification and cooling technology, which reduces energy by 50 percent.

The IFT’s student association will issue the award for its The Disney-IFTSA. Product Development Competition. The competition provides a team of students with the opportunity to propose a market-relevant, nutritious food or beverage snack that integrates a fruit, a vegetable, a low-fat dairy product or whole grains in a product targeted to children 10 and younger for a retail outlet. Teams were provided with and use certain Disney characters to develop their products.

Several special interest pavilions will be located throughout the IFT Food Expo floor highlighting important and emerging trends. For 2013, the pavilions include Asia-Pac, Belgium, food safety and quality, healthy food ingredients, and organic food ingredients. Meanwhile, Innova Market Insights will host a “Taste the trend” pavilion and Mintel will host a “New products and consumer insights” pavilion.

The Mintel new products and consumer insights pavilion features main stage presentations and an opportunity for attendees to interact with some of the world’s most successful and innovative products. On the second stage, attendees may attend small group presentations as well as participate in “Ask the analyst” sessions, where Mintel experts provide real market examples and forecast how the trends will shape the future of the industry.

For individuals interested in seeing food science and technology being applied in a real world setting, the IFT will offer several technical field trips during the show. Sites that will be visited include the Illinois Institute of Technology — Main Campus; The Institute for Food Safety and Health - Center for Nutrition Research and The University Technology Park; the Illinois Institute of Technology — Moffett Campus: The Institute for Food Safety and Health; and Knechtel, a full-service international food and pharmaceutical consultant that assists clients with creating new products, evaluating new ingredients, improving existing products and problem solving.

The first ever Career Center Live networking event will be held July 14 from 3 to 5 p.m. The event will allow companies to directly interact with industry professionals.

Also new this year will be a “Teaching and learning program” for academic members and other educators who are interested in teaching excellence, research, and extension/outreach. As part of the program, the IFT will host the Teaching and Learning SPA (Science Practice Application) Lounge. With the SPA Lounge, attendees interested in teaching and learning will have a dedicated place to socialize, network, and interact with colleagues throughout the meeting. The lounge will be located in McCormick Place and open July 14-16.