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IFEAT 2010, September 26–30: Addressing Challenges to the F&F Palette

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“Our challenges and opportunities are interrelated to those of a more complex environment,” said Alain Frix (LyondellBasell Flavors & Fragrances), chairman of the International Federation of Essential Oil and Aroma Trades (IFEAT) Marrakech conference committee, during a recent interview regarding key challenges facing the industry. “IFEAT is a great place to catch up with industry contacts, address the issues and find the best path to deal with them. Our conference program coordinator spends a huge amount of his time each year working with the IFEAT executive and conference committees identifying the best themes and presentations that will provide answers or trigger more questions from the audience.” In addition, he says, “Each new venue provides a unique opportunity to listen and discuss with local businessmen and scientists, and learn from their specific expertise. The optional field trip also adds color to the words—people have to visualize, feel and smell what we are talking about.”

Challenges
"The subject of pesticides is a concern to many industries including our essential oil industry," says Frix. To illustrate why, he notes that growers who are focused on the sale of their crop for fresh food are often not particularly affected by pesticide residue in the part of the crop which is not supposed to be eaten as such. Meanwhile, the process of essential oil production by its very nature concentrates these pesticides. This concern comes despite the fact that these oils are used in highly diluted amounts in finished products.

Frix says that the European Union ultimately wants to see a pesticide-free world and that technology and chemistry, though evolving rapidly to address these issues, remains very expensive. IFEAT, and particularly its scientific committee, is working with various organizations, laboratories and experts, to generate well-respected data to further characterize and address the pesticide issue.

"There is an important need to educate and promote growers to opt for best agricultural practices," says Frix, "because more and more regulations are developed with a focus on basic agricultural crops. We expect more regulations to impact our essential oil industry; each of these issues will have to be addressed separately. There is a lot of work to do. This is why IFEAT is in discussions with sister F&F industry organizations to keep them informed of our efforts. We collaborate on several projects.” These include the work on pesticide residues, in addition to addressing acceptable levels of methanol in oleoresins from spices, in which the chemical is naturally occurring. In the case of methanol, IFEAT has met with EU officials to talk about more reasonable concentration levels based in part on industry-generated data. (Draft rules are coming in October).

About 2011 EU flavor labeling rule changes,  which are to remove "nature identical" designations, Frix says, “This is another extremely important topic." He notes the great number of ingredients that are in limbo, awaiting the outcome of EU legislation. Once the rules are clarified, he says, “Essential oil and aroma chemical companies need to be prepared to respond to a boost in demand for some ingredients; it’s going to be interesting how some F&F projects might unfold.” He adds, “It is difficult to predict how fast environmental regulations will change in the next few years, in view of sustainability.” These regulations will need to evolve alongside best agricultural practices, says Frix. “The farmer is the big challenge. Can they be convinced to grow alternative crops?” This competition among crops will be a crucial focus in coming years, necessitating promotional activities from leading industry organizations in order to preserve the F&F palette.

Societal Changes
“While the regulatory challenges change this industry at a rapid pace, societal challenges evolve in parallel,” says Frix. “For instance, in Morocco, there has been a progressive change in the way people collect wild herbs, in the way they process these plants, in the way they tap energy.” These changes reflect a progression of green legislation and best agricultural practices encompassing everything from pesticide reduction to worker treatment and general social welfare. While this process can be more expensive than conventional agriculture, it is also cleaner. “Each action causes a reaction,” says Frix. “Concepts and values of ‘green’ and ‘durable’ are more understood by local populations. Our speakers will be delighted to share their experiences on these topics: not only their successes, but also what can be learned from some of the failures.”