The European Union has become a leading exporter of regulation as the world moves closer to common standards in food and nutrition policy, according to a leading industry expert.
Simon Pettman, director of international consultancy EAS, said EU efforts to harmonise regulations across its 27 member states had drawn huge interest from across the globe.
Pettman, speaking in a podcast interview, said governments were attracted to the EU's work because of the extent of application of the regulations, the strong consumer protection base, especially in the food sector, and the creation of the European Food Safety Authority 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 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."
But Pettman also highlighted that some EU food regulations difficult for companies to comply with — the rules on novel foods authorisation, for example — and agreed that conformity with such legislation might 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 with 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, 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, visit http://www.eas.eu