James N. Klapthor

The Institute of Food Technologists’ 2005 Annual Meeting + Food Expo® in New Orleans, La., was a successful event, drawing more than 18,000 registered attendees and 1,000 exhibiting companies, placing it among the top 10 largest IFT shows ever. Paralleling the overall success of the event is the coverage it has been receiving since its mid-July start.

One month after the event, no fewer than 45 original articles had been published more than 120 times in news outlets nationwide, including such news sources as the Associated Press, Reuters news wires, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WebMD.com, and others.

Significant coverage commenced the day the Annual Meeting began for many, July 16. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune trumped the competition by publishing an in-depth article on the latest food developments at Cargill. The piece previewed new functional food ingredients the Minnesota-based company was preparing for exhibition in New Orleans. The Star-Tribune is among the nation’s 20-largest newspapers, circulating more than 370,000 copies daily.

New Scientist magazine, based in the United Kingdom, tracked down a poster presentation by a Cornell University student, thanks to the school’s communications department working in conjunction with IFT media relations, and highlighted a new biosensor created to detect and track Escherichia coli in the food supply. The student, Sam Nugen, took precious time from the show floor to arrange an interview with the London-based reporter. New Scientist publishes about 150,000 copies weekly.

Local news outlet New Orleans Times-Picayune immersed itself in the proceedings, registering two of its reporters and one columnist among the press corps of 100 journalists covering the event. The resulting coverage played out in the July 24 and July 28 editions. The July 24 article, "Just Desserts," penned by lead columnist Angus Lind, conveyed the wonder a novice might experience wandering the show floor and digesting the magnitude of the food industry. The July 28 article, "Salt Assault," covered the Annual Meeting technical sessions and the removal of sodium from food.

No one news outlet provided its audience more comprehensive coverage of the IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo than the Scripps Howard news wire. As of August 4, it had run no fewer than eight articles stemming from presentations and exhibits in New Orleans, ranging in topics from radiofrequency identification and food defense to reduced-fat soy oil and consumers’ fast-food choices.

In the article, "Experts say food supply could be hit," Scripps Howard quoted Food and Drug Administration Senior Science Advisor Robert Buchanan as urging food scientists to use greater caution in publishing in scientific journals information on making or altering dangerous pathogens. "There’s a level of detail we can be cautious about," he was quoted as saying, contending that scientific papers shouldn’t give a road map to terrorists. "I’m not talking about major changes" in the exchange of scientific information, he said.

Scripps Howard also quoted former IFT President Frank Busta, now Director of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, speaking about the levels that some companies have heightened security to since September 2001. "But some said they weren’t going to do anything until something happens—the classic head in the sand," said Busta. "The further we get from 9/11, the less intense people get."

The Scripps Howard Company owns newspapers and television stations around the nation, and its news wire provides content to news outlets nationwide. Among the outlets publishing this article were the Grand Rapids, Mich., Press, the Knoxville, Tenn., News Sentinel, and the Birmingham, Ala., Post-Herald. Their combined circulation is nearly 300,000.

The Grand Rapids Press was also among the newspapers delivering Scripps Howard news on the Annual Meeting presentation on quick-service restaurant chains and the ongoing search for popular, healthier products. On July 24, the Press reported Yum Brands’ Chief Nutritional Officer Marilyn Schorin’s frank assessment of Taco Bell’s foray into low-fat, low-cal meals—a move that had won approval from a consumer advocate group critical of fast food—as "a disaster." Chicago’s Sun-Times, Daily Southtown and the alternative Red Streak newspapers all ran the article, accounting for well over a half-million circulation.

Reuters and HealthDay news services both covered results of a study presented during the Annual Meeting focusing on broccoli and its effects on bladder cancer. So did WebMD. Associated Press bit on a catfish study, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel appeared proud to cover the accomplishments of the student team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison who took first place in IFT Student Association product development competition.

As more coverage continues to appear, the success of the Annual Meeting + Food Expo as a source for news becomes even more apparent.

by James N. Klapthor,
IFT Media Relations Manager
[email protected]