How will changing food contact regulations impact the future of MERCOSUR and South America?

Global Food Contact 2015 speaker Alejandro Ariosti from INTI, Argentina at MERCOSUR shares his insight on the future of the food contact industry in South America and other similar regions.

Since 1971 when the requirements for food contact materials (FCMs) were set, companies have become more aware of the involvement of FCM chemical composition in food safety and quality.

These regulations were adopted by the MERCOSUR Food Packaging Group, which was established in 1991. Mercosur is South America's leading trading bloc generally known as the Common Market of the South, aiming to bring about the free movement of goods, capital, services and people among its member states. Following the regulation implementation, the food industry and food packaging producers have co-evolved in their view of food and packaging safety. This reflects in the present day as good manufacturing practices (GMPs) and hazard analysis critical point (HACCP) programmes have been adopted in the manufacturing of FCMs. So, what is the current situation of the industry and how can the market stand up to future challenges?

Alejandro Ariosti represents INTI (National Institute of Industrial Technology) at the MERCOSUR Food Packaging Group, a team that prepares the technical documents that the Common Market Group (GMC) sanctions. Alejandro currently delivers technical assistance, as well as research, development and training in the fields of food packaging technologies and food contact materials safety.  “The MERCOSUR FCMs legislation follows mainly the EU and US-FDA regulations so we need to understand the rationale of any updates to the regulations and to change our legislation accordingly.”

Alejandro is aiming to develop South American countries with the concepts of harmonization, mutual recognition and emerging non-divergent FCMs regulations. He feels that keeping track of FCMs is a key way in meeting the legal requirements – “We need to improve analytical tools to assess if FCMs comply with the legal requirements, like implementation of CEN standards.”

There is currently a varying degree of regulation alterations in the continent. “In South America, the other block is the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), and Colombia. They have authorized several FCMs regulations following the EU, MERCOSUR and US-FDA. Other countries do not have or have only just begun introducing regulation modifications.”

Initial signs of further regulation changes are apparent, as Chile has begun work on developing regulation for plastics intended to come into contact with foodstuffs. Alejandro believes this could be a step in the right direction: “The existence of integration agreements between the MERCOSUR and the CAN, Bolivia and Chile, may help to have a global approach to FCMs regulations or to a mutual recognition in the future.”

Alejandro Ariosti will be speaking at Global Food Contact 2015 conference held in Rome this May. As the only global food contact forum, the programme will once again feature presentations from national regulators from across the globe to provide delegates with all of the most relevant food contact developments. “Attending GFC 2015 will give the delegates an opportunity to improve the understanding of the regulations presently in force in Africa, the EU, North and South America, and South East Asia. I shall be glad to share useful information from our daily work and to gain a better understanding of the regulatory situation. As always, it will be a great opportunity to share experiences with the attendants, to meet old friends and to make new ones.”