American Meat Institute (AMI) officials said buyer attendance at theWorldwide Food Expo's2009 International Meat, Poultry & Seafood Industry Convention and Exposition exceeded 2007 totals and was "a very encouraging sign about the significance of the trade show," which closed last Saturday at Chicago's McCormick Place. 

“In one of the more difficult economic times, increasing the number of packer processor buyers attending the show is a very positive development,” said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle. 

More than 20,000 people registered for the show, with a ten percent traveling from outside the U.S.  More than 100 countries were represented. 

“Clearly, the meat, poultry and seafood industry around the world continues to see this show as a relevant, valuable event,” Boyle said.  “Not only did the show have good traffic on the floor, education workshop attendance was very strong and feedback was very positive.”

AMI said it will host its next convention and exposition will occur April 13-16, 2011, at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The move away from Fall and to the Spring in 2011 has received wide support from attendees and exhibitors alike.

In other show-related news, AMI presented its top honor, theIndustry Advancement Award, toRichard G. Searer, retired president of Kraft Foods North America and former AMI chairman.

AMI described Searer as "a fierce competitor in and a steadfast proponent" of the processed meat industry. One of his most significant contributions came as a food safety champion, leading the industry-wide effort to improve processed meat safety. 

In the late 1990s, while Oscar Mayer president,Listeria monocytogeneswas recognized as a significant challenge to processed meat safety.  Searer commissioned an Oscar Mayer R&D task force to develop methods of minimizing the threat. The result was the development, in conjunction with PURAC, of lactate/ diacetate technology to minimize the growth ofL. monocytogenesin processed meats during storage.  Searer chose to share this important development with the industry. It was estimated that by 2002, 70 percent of processed meats had incorporated the lactate/diacetate technology. 

In 2000, the use of sodium nitrite in processed meats was being reviewed by the government.  Searer directed Oscar Mayer staff to share their technical expertise with the entire industry.  The industry-wide Sodium Nitrite Advisory Committee, chaired by Oscar Mayer’s Andy Milkowski, Ph.D., developed and presented such compelling evidence that the National Toxicology Program determined that nitrite was a safe food additive. AMI said Searer’s leadership has had long-lasting, positive effects on the industry’s efforts to enhance the safety of meat and poultry products. 

“Largely as a result of Rick’s leadership, our industry has not had a recall related to Listeria illnesses since 2002,” said Boyle.  “That clearly represents a major industry advancement. Rick’s commitment to food safety and to a collegial exchange of information and technology with competing processed meat companies ushered in a new era at AMI and within the industry.  We are very pleased to honor Rick with the Institute’s highest award this year.”