The Institute of Food Technologists' in-person event has been canceled due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, and organizers are offering a virtual experience in its place.

“After thoughtful consultation with leaders and partners within the food industry and academia, IFT’s Board of Directors made the decision to transition the onsite annual meeting and food expo into a virtual experience,” organizers said. “This was felt to be the best and safest course of action after careful consideration of evolving COVID-19 pandemic developments.”

The event was slated to be held July 15-17 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

And while officials are aiming to convert part of McCormick Place into a 3,000-bed hospital by the end of April to help deal with an expected increased need for hospital beds due to the coronavirus, there are still scheduled events listed for June at the convention center. 

IFT organizers said they made the decision so far in advance to allow for time to transition into a virtual experience and to allow attendees to cancel travel and hotel reservations. 

"Moving to a virtual experience also provides more convenient access options allowing our global community to keep focused on their important work of ensuring the safety and availability of our global food supply during the pandemic,” organizers said.

However, they did not want to completely cancel, especially with the added importance of the food supply chain during the pandemic. 

“Our industry plays an important role in ensuring the global food supply is safe, nutritious, and sustainable,” organizers said. “Due to this, it was important to provide a safe and globally accessible solution to convene our community in their pursuit of advancing the science of food and food innovation — a purpose that is more important today than ever before.”

Organizers said they would provide updates on the virtual event as they become available. 

“We are excited about this new virtual direction as it provides our community an even more inclusive opportunity to support IFT's overarching purpose of gathering the global science of food and food innovation community together to share, learn, connect, and inspire the future of food,” they said. “IFT staff are currently working through details to support this transition and we will be sharing updates via this website and IFT’s social media sites.”