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Interview with Professor Alejandro Ariosti from INTI - Plastics Centre, Argentina

With science-based regulations for food contact materials (FCMs) constantly developing, it's important for stakeholders from across the value chain to keep up-to-date and improve their understanding of the FCMs regulations worldwide. With this in mind we caught up with Professor Alejandro Ariosti from the National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI) - Plastics Centre, Argentina who gave us a personal and institutional update on the regulatory situation in MERCOSUR and other Latin American countries, including an overview of what he'll be discussing at Global Food Contact 2017.

“Food contact materials regulatory perspective in MERCOSUR and other South American countries”

Next May 2017, delegates from regulatory bodies, academia, research institutes, food and packaging industries, brand owners, retailers, etc., from all over the world will meet in Rome. For delegates from the emerging markets, this is a great opportunity to learn how the biggest challenges FCMs face in the industrialized countries are dealt with, in order to adapt regulatory tools to the needs of consumers and industry in our countries.

For instance the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) FCMs legislation follows mainly the EU and US-FDA regulations, so the biggest challenges are:

- to understand the rationale of the updates of these reference regulations and guidelines;

- to be able to change our legislation accordingly (e.g., acceptance of specific migration modeling, regulation of the use of recycled plastics, new active materials); 

- to improve the analytical tools to assess if FCMs comply with the legal requirements (e.g., implementation of internationally recognized standards, the threshold of toxicological concern (TTC) concept).

The Member States of the MERCOSUR are: Argentina, Bolivia (in adhesion process), Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. In South America, the other block is the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), and Colombia (one of its Member States) has sanctioned several FCMs regulations following the EU, MERCOSUR and US-FDA legislations.

Other countries do not have or have very incipient regulations. Bolivia is in a process of integration into the MERCOSUR. Chile is working in the development of a regulation for plastics intended to come into contact with foodstuffs, following mainly the EU regulation.

The existence of economic agreements between the MERCOSUR, the CAN, Chile, Guyana and Surinam, may help to have a global approach to FCMs regulations or to mutual recognition in the future in our region.

For delegates from the rest of the world, some topics of interest in my presentation are:

- General scenario in South America (MERCOSUR, CAN, Colombia)

- MERCOSUR FCMs Legislation compared with the US-FDA and EU Regulations

- MERCOSUR last updates and agenda for 2017 (plastics additives regulation review)

- 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 recycled post-consumer PET (PCR-PET) in South America. 

Attending the GFC 2017 will give the delegates an opportunity to improve the understanding of the FCMs regulations worldwide and of specific technical issues of relevant importance.

I shall be glad to share with other delegates useful information for our daily work and for a better understanding of the regulatory situation.  I am looking forward to meet a very large concurrence, as is traditional during the GFC Conferences. As always, it will be a great opportunity to share experiences with the attendees, to meet old friends and to make new ones.

Additional Notes from Alejandro Ariosti

The advance of science-based regulations for food contact materials (FCMs) helps consumers to have access to safer food and should improve confidence of stakeholders all along the food value chain. This is the conducting line of the series of the Global Food Contact Conferences and Workshops, held in Europe and the US, alternatively.

Food industry and food packaging producers co-evolved in their view on food and packaging safety.  From the days of quality control concept, industry improved continuously up to the present application of total quality management tools, adoption of good manufacture practices (GMPs), and of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) programs in the manufacture of FCMs. In the last years the last step has been the development of certification schemes of FCMs safety, through a food safety system certification (FSSC) process by an accredited third party, adapted to FCMs, thus avoiding multiple audits of suppliers by customers. Some of the driving forces behind the changes were the development of regulations following international references, the requirements of food producers (locally or from headquarters abroad), the consolidation of the safety global image of certain brands, the exigencies of very competitive markets, the opinion of consumers, and a better training of officials and industry personnel.

Technical and regulatory issues develop so fast that it is necessary for professionals working in these fields to keep the state of the art continuously through specific training. From my personal experience, I can recommend, for instance:

- to attend international technical events (meetings, symposia, conferences, etc.);

- to attend technical specific workshops;

- to build up and maintain a network of professional contacts to interact with;

- to browse systematically the official websites of different regulatory authorities dealing with FCMs;

- to use systems able to search specific regulatory issues in their data bases.