|« CS Mag Bash Pairs Food and Charity||No Ketchup Allowed: The GB Hot Dog Cookoff »|
Event Mon Jul 15 2013
There's something fantastically overwhelming about trade shows--the eager sales pitches, the free samples and goodies, the elaborate booths and displays. So when I was invited to the 2013 IFT Food Expo, my heart nearly collapsed with quivering excitement.
The IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) Annual Meeting & Food Expo merges the science and business of food into one giant conference, where representatives from industry, academia and the government gather to share scientific developments, innovations and trends on food. So it's not just about food items; it's also about the ingredients, the process, the legality and the engineering of food. In addition to your standard food suppliers (from foreign and domestic), there were plenty of scientists, lawmakers and engineers at the expo.
But let's face it, I wasn't there for the poster sessions or a lecture on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. Luckily, I didn't look professional or smart enough to be a buyer or academic. Instead, I meandered for hours through various booths and exhibits, sampling nuts, pastries, cured meats, and teas. I nibbled on organic cocoa nibs, dehydrated vegetables and even pink-colored fondant. I tried products made with artificial and natural sweeteners, sodium replacements, guar gum and other stabilizers, and protein alternatives.
By the end of three hours, my taste buds were completely burned out from a tasting roller coaster. What I couldn't eat at that moment, I stuffed into my giant tote, bulging with accumulated swag.
Although my overall experience was quite enjoyable, I was admittedly dismayed by the lack of "natural" foods. Apart from spices and whatnot, I rarely found products that didn't contain excess ingredients (one faux chicken product had 30 ingredients!). Of course, being at a food technology expo, I expected to see antimicrobials, flavor enhancers, dyes, and stabilizers, but even the plain cranberries had canola oil and preservatives in them! To me, the expo seemed like a stark contrast against the recent movements toward local, natural food. In any case, whether I ate food or "food," I wholeheartedly enjoyed my food science adventure.