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Exclusive Interview with Alistair Irvine

Smithers: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges that in Food Contact industry is facing nowadays?

Alistair Irvine: Certainly in Europe the biggest challenges will be posed as we move to regulate new classes of food contact materials such as papers, inks and coatings and also how we deal with non-intentionally added substances.  The old paradigm whereby the European Food Safety Authority would risk assess substances prior to them being entered onto a positive only proved capable of handling 30-50 new substances a year.  If 1000s of new substances need to be listed, this approach becomes untenable, so how the regulator deals with this will prove interesting.  In my opinion, the approach they adopt will need to involve some degree of self-assessment, but I am watching this space with interest.

Smithers: The market is constantly shifting in the food contact industry, can you tell us something about how international safety compliance is affecting the industry?

Alistair Irvine: There is no doubt that the proliferation of countries and regions with legislation has created a challenge for the food contact regulatory affairs professionals.  Although recent legislation such as the new Chinese Standard GB-9685-2016 is substantially based on the same principles as the FDA and EU regulations, there are sufficient points of difference between these three sets of legislation that you cannot infer compliance with the Chinese rules from compliance with EU and FDA rules.  With similar changes of rules in South America and expected developments in Japan too, it is clear that management of compliance and regulatory information is becoming ever more important.

Smithers: Where do you think we will see the biggest change in the food contact industry within the next few years?

I think that the move towards regulation of more classes of food contact materials in the EU will almost certainly require the wider adoption of sophisticated exposure assessment tools such as the FACET model and also require wider use of computational Toxicology models such as ToxTree.  Also, with the mood music from the new US administration strongly suggesting a path towards deregulation, it will be interesting to see how this impacts food contact legislation.

Smithers: What are you most looking forward to at Food Contact & Additives 2017?

Alistair Irvine: Personally, I am really looking forward to the hearing from the FDA.  It is always interesting to hear directly from the regulators about the challenges they face and how they plan to take things forwards.  I also have a personal interest in the sustainability session – having started my Smithers Pira career working on a food contact recycling project, this theme is of particular personal interest to me.  I am also looking forward to the excellent opportunity to network with other people working in the food contact world.