Smithers: What do you consider the biggest international challenges that the food industry (Contact and/or Additives) faces in regulatory compliance?
Xiaolu Wang: Generally speaking, language barriers and different legislative frameworks in foreign countries are the two major challenges for companies to ensure regulatory compliance internationally. It is particularly difficult for international companies to set up a regulatory compliance scheme worldwide, as it requires multiple language skills and sufficient knowledge of foreign regulatory systems.
Furthermore, the lack of transparency in a foreign country might also bring additional challenges for international companies. Take Japan as an example, the Japanese trade associations often play a major role in regulatory compliance assurance in the food contact industry. For instance, the Japan Hygienic Olefin and Styrene Plastics Association (JHOSPA) has developed a positive list of raw materials and the specifications and testing standards for synthetic resins. These list and testing standards, while not legally binding, are widely accepted and observed by the industry. They are, however, exclusively available to members of JHOSPA and, therefore, increase the cost of compliance for businesses.
In addition to the challenges in understanding the regulatory framework itself, the other difficult situation in which international companies often find themselves is the lack of channels and skills to communicate with foreign authorities. Communication with the authorities is an important, and often times, necessary process for carrying out any types of business in a foreign country. Lack of knowledge and understanding of the local culture and preferred ways of communication often prevents companies from establishing their business presence efficiently.
These challenges hold true when it comes to the food industry, if not more so than other industries. The importance of food safety issues is recognized internationally. This importance, in turn, mandates exceptionally stringent supervision and administration of regulatory compliance in relation to food safety legislation at the national level.
Smithers: Are any exciting innovations within the food industry that you feel are going to impact the consumer in the coming years?
Xiaolu Wang: I’m very interested in the concept of active packaging, which is used for foods, pharmaceuticals, and several other types of products. These packaging materials help extend shelf life, monitor freshness, display information on quality, and improve safety. I understand that there are regulations concerning these packaging materials in the EU, but I am not aware of any similar regulations in China at the moment. I’m interested in the Chinese government’s approach in regulating these materials.
Smithers: Where do you think that international regulations will experience the biggest change in the Food industry?
Xiaolu Wang: One of the major trends that I’ve seen in recent years is the unification of rules and regulations internationally. Take China as an example, the Chinese government recently issued various technical standards that set up the complete legal framework for food contact materials. These standards, while not specifically refer to any foreign or international standards, have certain similarities with the food contact material-related standards issued in other jurisdictions, such as the EU, both in terms of their structures and content.
In addition, the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine of China and the French National Association for Standardization (Association Française de Normalisation) jointly issued a bilateral agreement on the mutual recognition and approval of technical standards issued by both countries. The first list of mutually recognized standards by both governments was published on 28 April 2017.
With a more harmonized legislative system internationally, we can reasonably expect a smoother flow of goods and services in the food industry.
Smithers: What are you most looking forward to at Food Contact & Additives 2017?
Xiaolu Wang: I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge and expertise in the Chinese food contact and food additive legislation. I would also love to learn more about the business practice of the food industry from our attendees.