The European Union (EU) has become a leading exporter of regulation as growing information exchange among regulators worldwide moves closer towards a common standard in food and nutrition policy, an industry consultant has said.
Simon Pettman, Director of international food and nutrition policy consultancy EAS, said that EU efforts to harmonise regulations across its 27 member states has drawn huge interest across the globe, highlighting that in many areas including the food sector, Europe is fast becoming an exporter of regulation.
Speaking in a five-minute podcast interview, Mr Pettman highlighted the two main global bodies developing regulation, policy and recommendations in the area of food and nutrition policy – the World Health Organization and Codex Alimentarius (the global food standards setting body), but added that since these bodies do not often provide the detail required by governments when it comes to developing their own national systems and regulations, many regulators are drawn towards the EU.
He said that governments were drawn towards the EU because of the extent of application of the regulations (with more than 30 countries implementing European legislation), the strong consumer protection base especially in the food sector, and the creation of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as a global provider of scientific information in the area of food and nutrition.
“Governments are increasingly looking towards the EU when developing regulatory policies,” said Mr Pettman. “Of course the United States is a key reference point, it always will be simply because of the size of the market. And increasingly, regulators are looking towards China and Japan because of the sizes of these countries and their importance as suppliers of food and ingredients. But there is also strong awareness that the EU’s framework has been developed over many years and built up around different cultures, traditions and other aspects. So there is a view in many countries that if it works for the EU it can also work for their country.”
Mr Pettman highlighted that some EU food legislation is extremely difficult for companies to comply with, such as the novel foods authorisation, and agreed that conformity with such regulation may not be achievable for many developing countries.
“Novel foods applications are a major challenge for food ingredient suppliers and food companies in Europe,” he said. “If the EU adopts standards that are too high compared to the global norm, it puts EU companies at a competitive disadvantage in so far as their cost structure for manufacture is considerably higher than their competitors outside the EU.”
“On the other hand,’ he added, “their competitors won’t be able to sell into the EU. So if we’re looking at the global environment for trade we see that at some stage there has to be a closer approximation of these standards across the world.”
To hear the full podcast interview with Mr Pettman visit www.eas.eu.