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Interview with Fonterra

Ahead of this September's Food Contact Asia 2022, we spoke with Tom Carr,
Senior Packaging Technologist at Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited, to get a sneak peek of what we can expect from his presentation on 'The challenge for Food Exporters into Asian Markets'. Here's what he had to say...

Current Industry Focus:
Q1. As consumers/end users continually push for more sustainable/greener/safer solutions, what do you think is the biggest concern regarding food contact materials/packaging?

My primary concern is for the compliance status of sustainability options, such as Recycled content,  Paper replacing plastic (and the need for waterproof/grease proof options), Functional barrier properties, etc.  The current range of packaging materials have been fine-tuned and perfected over the past few decades, and expecting valid alternatives in such a short time frame could lead to unexpected issues.
Q2. What are some of the biggest opportunities gaining attention within the food contact field? How has your company chosen to react/adapt to stay on trend?

Obviously sustainability is getting lots of press coverage, so setting the guidelines for Food contact safety of these materials is key to not making mistakes that could lead to food safety and reputational damage.
Future Focus:
Q3. What industry topics are getting the most attention at this time? How are these factors influencing the future of food contact packaging/materials?

Sustainable packaging is getting an extraordinary amount of attention and resources across the industry.   Suppliers need to be very careful to understand the regulatory issues that are associated with the topic, and choose their solutions wisely.  In this space, a solution for one food type will not always translate into a solution for all food types.  The Recycled Ready packaging options appear to offer a lifeline for many existing packaging materials, but the infrastructure needed to use these “Recycled ready” packaging materials need to be planned now.

Q4. What does your company/organization hope to achieve over the next 5 years with regards to the future of food contact packaging/materials industry?

Sustainable Packaging is a key enabler supporting Fonterra’s wider sustainability activity and falls under the “Be a Leader in Sustainability” long term aspiration.   There is a growing expectation from our consumers and customers that we consider what packaging materials we are using and that we have a plan in place to drive the change to recycle ready packaging.       We are also hearing more about recycled content and the potential to use it in our packaging, Whilst we support opportunities to incorporate recycled materials and feedstock into our packaging, we must consider the food safety and quality of our food and ensure that these are not compromised through the use of contaminated materials.

Q5. What opportunities are there for harmonization of food contact regulations in the Asia Pacific region?

With the Japanese adopting a Positive list for monomers and additives and Taiwan looking to adopt the EU’s Annex II list for Heavy metals and PAAs, this could be a great opportunity for more Asia Pacific nations to align themselves with EU/Japan/USFDA.    The plethora of Packaging compliance testing requirements across the SEA region are all slightly different, so harmonisation with EU/Japan packaging testing would be a great opportunity to simplify regulatory requirements.

Conference Related:

Q6. Your presentation at this year’s event is The challenge for Food Exporters into Asian Markets. Why is it important for others in your industry to hear this message? What are some of the key take-aways?

Fonterra is a global exporter of Dairy products, so when packaging suppliers are asked to provide packaging they need to ensure that they understand the potential export markets, and be certain that they are capable of meeting the regulatory requirements.
Key takes out:  
Understand export markets before agreeing to supply and know when you don’t comply with a specific market and communicate this to potential customers.
Increase your compliance knowledge of the markets in SEA and further afield.
Establish relationships with Testing laboratories with Global compliance testing capabilities.
Q7. Which presentations (what session topic) are you most looking forward to hearing about at Food Contact Asia? 

       Session 1: Regulatory update and interpretation in APAC.  
As a regulatory compliance specialist dealing with global suppliers, it will great to learn more of the official interpretation of how the SEA regulations are expected to be complied with.     Many packaging suppliers are struggling to understand the New Japanese Positive list, so gaining insight into how suppliers can show compliance with this regulation will be incredibly helpful.
      Session 6:  EU Developments in recycled plastics in Food contact – Dr Alistair Irvine. 
Dr Irvine’s insight and knowledge of global packaging compliance is always appreciated and thorough.   Alistair and the Team at Smithers have been at the forefront of regulatory understanding and industry training for the 30 years.