What the public thinks about food and science — and the role of food industry professionals in changing popular misconceptions — will be front-and-center during four featured sessions of IFT16, the annual meeting and Food Expo held by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in Chicago, July 16-19 at McCormick Place.

The event has a lot to offer its expected 23,000 attendees coming from 90 countries. A full slate of peer-reviewed technical papers will be presented in more than 100 scientific and applied sessions. New this year is the e-poster area where, in only 10 minutes, visitors can get detailed downloads on technical research. Other session formats include a student product competition and pop-up meetings after several popular educational sessions, thus allowing attendees to sit down with peers and continue the conversation.

More than 1,000 exhibitors will fill the third floor hall in McCormick Place South with ingredients, machinery and services. A special Innovation Zone is being readied so visitors can gain inspiration for product development initiatives. The On Trend exhibit showcases the latest product innovations among exhibitors. The Food Expo Innovation Awards, a competition judged by an independent expert panel, recognize exhibitors for exceptional developments commercially introduced during the past year. There will also be a new exhibitors pavilion to allow attendees to explore companies participating in the IFT Food Expo for the first time.

With consumers today giving intense scrutiny to their foods, IFT scheduled three featured session speakers with expertise in these issues. Why people fear innovation will be detailed by Jacques Rousseau, professor of critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town and founder and chair of the Free Society Institute. Mr. Rousseau plans to advise about how to better equip consumers with the scientific knowledge and resources to assist them in making more informed decisions.

In another featured session, Bev Postma, PhD, an international policy specialist and executive director of Food Industry Asia, will discuss the rise of the pseudoscientist in the world of digital media and its larger cultural implication. The program also provides a featured session with Ben Goldacre, a doctor, epidemiologist, broadcaster and author of Bad Science. He will report ways in which evidence can be distorted. A fourth featured session brings in a panel of consumers to talk about clean-label buying habits.

Technical tours enable attendees to visit Chicago-area businesses. These include Knechtel, a food consultant with a 25,000-sq-ft product development laboratory; Imbibe, a beverage product development specialist with a 40,000-sq-ft innovation center; and the 2.5-acre rooftop garden of Savor, the foodservice provider for McCormick Place. Another tour takes participants to the Illinois Institute of Technology Moffett Campus to pop into the Institute for Food Safety and Health for updates on the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance.

IFT put together a slate of 11 pre-meeting short courses that cover hot food science topics and teach business skills. These take place at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. Subjects cover preventative controls for human foods, commercialization of non-thermal technologies, flavor interactions in foods, clean-label product innovations, food labeling and microencapsulation, among other topics.

IFT’s annual meeting starts the evening of July 16 with an awards ceremony, a fellows recognition forum and a celebratory welcome reception. On July 17, scientific and applied sessions start with featured session speakers in the morning and afternoon, and the Food Expo opens its doors for a 3-day run, ending on July 19.

Networking opportunities and recreation are offered, too. The IFT Student Association joins with Feeding Tomorrow for a fun run/walk on the morning of July 18 in nearby Burnham Park. Several of the group’s divisions sponsor breakfast, lunch and dinner events.

Attendees’ family members 16 years of age or older can register for the meeting. A family lounge is provided at the convention center, but children under 16 are not permitted on the Food Expo floor.

Individuals can earn up to 24 credits toward recertification as a Certified Food Scientist by attending the scientific and applied sessions, pre-event short courses and more.

For program, exhibition, registration and housing details, visit IFT’s Food Expo website at www.ift.org/IFT16. Online registration is open now, with early bird rates available until June 3.