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Mercosur Interview

Ahead of his presentation as part of Global Food Contact Online - Webinar Series, we spoke to Professor Alejandro Ariosti, Sanitary Application Materials - Technical Assistance at the INTI - Plastics Centre in Argentina, to get his insights into current regulatory challenges, a move toward global harmonization, and recent developments in Latin America.

Q: As we look to the future of this industry, collaboration and innovation will be crucial ways of tackling the most pressing problems. What are some of the biggest challenges currently facing this industry?

There are several challenges companies that manufacture or use food contact materials (FCMs) are facing, but I shall just mention the three (related to regulatory issues) I think are paramount:

1.    The existence of a myriad of regulations on some materials that are not recognized amongst jurisdictions worldwide; and on the contrary, the lack of regulations on several other FCMs. (For instance, 4 harmonized FCMs vs. 13 non harmonized FCMs just in the EU)

2.    Problems of information transmission along the supply chain between different stakeholders with respect to safety and compliance of FCMs

3.    Present and future regulations banning or restricting the use of certain FCMs, for instance single use plastics (SUP), etc.

Q: What are some of the biggest opportunities in this industry? What changes and developments are you hoping to see in the coming years?

FCMs regulations are converging towards two or three main systems (e.g. US-FDA, EU), and this fact might be a good basis for future global harmonization and/or mutual recognition in the long term.

For those companies interested in generating or improving their human resources dealing with regulatory issues worldwide, the resources are plentiful; for instance, technical and scientific literature (books and articles), website links to update basic knowledge, databases of regulations administered by specialized companies, services provided by expert consultants, companies, or research institutions and universities working in technical and regulatory subjects, and national and international congresses, seminars, conferences and symposia, that are held to update and exchange information between regulatory agencies, academia and industry.

Developments and regulatory changes of interest worth following up are, for instance:

•    Novel FCMs: nanomaterials, active and intelligent FCMs, new functional barriers, etc., as they constitute interesting technological innovations, but may pose analytical and safety challenges
•    Challenges in identifying and assessing non-intentionally added substances (NIAS)
•    Updates on plastics and paper recycling, because of their economic significance
•    Other environmental issues (circular economy, biodegradable and compostable plastics certification, microplastics, etc.)
•    Greater exchange of opinions between the raw materials suppliers, packaging converters, brand owners, retailers, NGOs, academia, regulators, etc., as multi-stakeholders discussions and transparency are values of increasing importance in policy-making.

Q: Even though the event went virtual, we’re still bringing together thought leaders from across the supply chain to discuss the latest updates and inspire important conversations. Why is an event like this important to this industry?

The GFC 2020 program is very interesting and well designed, and it has a nice balance of subjects (scientific, technical, marketing and regulatory issues). The selected speakers are experts in their fields, as in all the previous editions.

Of course I shall follow all the presentations attentively with the objective of updating information and getting feedback for our regulatory and technical assistance activities. I think all the attendees will be satisfied with the event. I hope the best of success for this year’s online version.

I look forward to making a presentation useful for the attendees that want to learn about or update their present knowledge of the regulatory situation in Latin America, and in particular in South America; to network online in order to answer questions and exchange information with colleagues; and also to meet from a distance friends working in the field since several years ago.

Q: Your presentation will focus on introducing the Latin American Blocks and discussing MERCOSUR. What are some key take-aways?

The main points of my presentation are:

•    General situation of blocks in Latin America (MERCOSUR, CAN, SICA, etc.)
•    MERCOSUR FCMs Legislation compared with the US-FDA, EU, Japan and China
•    MERCOSUR last updates and review of the food contact plastics framework regulation and the positive list of monomers and polymers for food contact plastics (2019-2020)
•    Differences between the Argentine and Brazilian pre-market approval systems of final FCMs
•    How companies can include new food contact substances in the MERCOSUR positive lists
•    Status of post-consumer recycled PET (PCR-PET) in South America