CHICAGO — The 21st annual Food Safety Summit with Trade Show and Conference, begins today at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.
The May 6-9 events are technically occurring in Rosemont, a Chicagoland municipality that wraps around the terminals at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

The Food Safety Summit moved from Baltimore to Chicagoland four years ago. The show’s producers, Michigan-based BNP Media, was planning the 2016 move to Rosemont even before riots broke out in 2015 in the vicinity of the Baltimore Convention Center.

The Chicagoland economy boosts 4,500 food and beverage companies with 130,000 employees and sales of more than $32 million. It is one of the world’s top cities for food and beverage trade, a globally recognized “food cluster.”

Chicago is also “a hotbed of investment for startups in the food industry, befitting the city’s legacy of being the world’s hog butcher and stacker of wheat,” according to Bloomberg News. Chicago food companies like Kraft Heinz, Archer Daniels Midland, Conagra Brands, and others run venture capital funds out of Chicago.

Chicagoland’s dominance in the food industry goes back about 150 years, and, of course, it isn’t all positive.

“The successful rise of the meatpacking industry in Chicago did not come without a cost. At the turn of the century, Upton Sinclair’s novel ‘The Jungle’ exposed the industry’s unsanitary processing facilities and dangerous working conditions,” according to the Chicago Section of the Institute of Food Technologies.

“This led to the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act, which put federal inspectors in all packinghouses whose products entered interstate or foreign commerce. The reform also resulted in the establishment of the Bureau of Chemistry that became the Food and Drug Administration in 1930. In 1909 Chicago also became the first city in the United States to require compulsory milk pasteurization.”

Just two years ago, the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network was formed to leverage and grow power. The new organization came into existence “to drive innovation and growth” of the food and beverage sector in the Chicago region. The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network has a “higher power” as “cluster organization” charged with deliberate, strategic and efficient collaboration.

“The Chicagoland area, one of the world’s top global cities and a hub for trade, leads the nation in packaged food and beverage sales, but also boasts a vibrant local food movement and a large number of entrepreneurial start-ups,” according to the 2-year-old organization. “Chicagoland’s Food and Beverage industry cluster is the second largest in the nation.

“Chicagoland is also at the forefront of developing technologies and business models to address new consumer expectations and evolving regulatory standards around the food and beverage industry. The region continues to be at the center of the food and beverage industry based on the deep knowledge in the region, skilled workforce, excellent transportation, outstanding academic institutions, plentiful resources, and proximity to agriculture.”

Chicagoland’s Food and Beverage Network this week is promoting the Food Safety Summit on its website.

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