Published on: May 1, 2009Content Guy’s Note: This story appeared as “breaking news” yesterday afternoon on MorningNewsBeat, and is re-posted here in slightly different form.
The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced yesterday that it is cancelling next week’s Future Connect and MarkeTechnics conferences in Dallas, citing concerns about the swine flu pandemic. The organization began informing sponsors and speakers during the mid-afternoon.
In a note posted on the FMI website, association CEO Leslie Sarasin said, “The increased urgency of the alerts from health officials today and the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services confirmed our decision to not host a large gathering where attendees would be in close proximity. We seek to support their recommended precautions and prevention steps and would not want to contribute to spread of the virus in any way.
“We agonized over this difficult and critical decision, but are certain that the number one priority of America’s food retailers, wholesalers and suppliers right now is to look out for the health and safety of their customers, employees and the communities they serve across the country and around the globe.
“In particular, we recognize that Future Connect is a program about leadership, and at this time our industry’s leaders must be in their communities to be actively engaged in a time of potential crisis.”
The move is a marked change from earlier Thursday, when FMI said that it was “committed” to holding the conference, and that it had made that decision in concert with local and national health authorities.
It in unclear as of this posting whether the conference is being cancelled outright, or postponed until another time. In her posting, Sarasin said, “We are evaluating our options for rescheduling these events and will look forward to sharing more details about the plans for holding the events in the near future.
This was the first year for the Future Connect concept, and represented a shift for FMI, which decided to have its traditional exhibit floor every other year, alternating with an education-only format.
It is relevant to this story that the Dallas News reports that “two more school systems on Wednesday shuttered all of their campuses after reports of probable cases of swine flu, causing more than 130,000 students statewide to miss class because of concerns about the virus … There are 11 probable swine flu cases in the county that includes Fort Worth, according to Tarrant County Public Health officials.”
- KC's View:
- First of all, let’s be clear. FMI did the right thing. As I said yesterday, there were just too many risks – to the public health and, quite frankly, to the food industry’s reputation – if they went ahead with Future Connect and MarketTechnics and somehow became responsible for further spread of this new influenza.
It is a decision with some risks involved, since this is new territory for FMI – a convention without an exhibit floor being run by upper management that wasn’t even with FMI when these plans originally were being made. If Future Connect is rescheduled for later this year, it is hard to know whether everyone will show up or if FMI can generate the same kind of enthusiasm for it that seemed to be there the first time around. And then, FMI has to gauge the impact on whatever it has planned for the 2010 show in Las Vegas, especially if it decided to run its educational conference this fall sometime.
No matter. These are decisions for another day. (Like, next Monday.) As MNB has been saying all week, it would have been irresponsible to continued with the Future Connect plans for next week, and it made far more sense to err on the side of caution…