CHICAGO-Dairy and food industry professionals from North American and around the world are already gathering here this week for Worldwide Food Expo '05. The show floor opens Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., but ancillary events-both official and unofficial-started a few days earlier.

For instance, today a visitor to Chicago might be able to spend part or all of the day at a workshop on Environmental Solutions for Dairy Plants, sponsored by the International Dairy Foods Assn., one of the show sponsors. IDFA also is hosting a HACCP continuing education program that began on Monday and continues today.

If one was lucky enough to get the invite, the Italian Trade Commission is hosting programs on regional wine and cuisine as part of Italian Wine Week. And in nearby Oakbrook, McDonald's has invited some members of the industry to its Hamburger University for two days of programs about food safety and sanitation.

Plantwide, Foodwide, Worldwide! is the theme of Worldwide Food Expo '05, which runs through Saturday Oct. 29 at McCormick Place on Lake Michigan. Unlike Worldwide Food 2003, this year's expo is scheduled to conclude before Halloween.

Worldwide Food Expo is said to be the year's largest food and beverage processing and packaging event in the world, covering more than a million square feet of exhibits and featuring 1,200 of the world's leading suppliers. More than 30,000 attendees from 100 countries will visit the show to learn about new technologies, trends and ideas.

Morning educational programs include six Super Sessions addressing issues such as leadership, business ethics, demographics, consumer trends, branding and activism. And for dairy professionals, there is a sub-series of programs called Dairy Tech.

For more information visit www.worldwidefood.com.