While the goal of the “Globally Harmonized System” (GHS) isn’t quite world peace (as its name may suggest), it is designed to provide “harmony” where inconsistency often has reigned: in the world of chemical classification and labeling.
GHS itself is not a regulation, but rather a reference document published by the United Nations. To date, 67 countries have adopted GHS and implemented their own standards for which their regulatory agencies will ensure compliance.
Prior to GHS, regulations varied from country to country and even within the county, depending on which regulatory body had jurisdiction and whether the chemical was bound for the industrial vs. consumer market. The result: Companies that trade internationally or across different markets often had to develop multiple labels and safety data sheets for the same product. GHS is designed to limit the number of labels required, reduce confusion for end users and provide consistent protection for employees.
So how does this affect the pet food industry? Chemicals of many types are used in the production of pet food to ensure stability and safety, and to enhance the taste, appearance and handling of products. That means pet food companies will be involved in label changes to comply with GHS guidelines.
Among the changes that may be required:
• Pictograms to convey hazards when certain criteria are met
• New or additional hazard statements, even if the product has not changed
So while pet food producers may see new hazard information on the labeling of ingredients intended for use in their pet foods, treats and supplements, this does not mean the ingredient has changed. Perhaps the greatest challenge to implementing this new system will be in educating users about the new labeling requirements. The upside: Clearer, more consistent labeling will give end users the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions on how to safely handle a product, regardless of where the product is marketed.
At AFB, we are partnering with our pet food manufacturing customers to prioritize label and safety data sheet changes based on customer needs and global regulatory deadlines. Implementation schedules vary by country. Brazil, the European Union and the United States have phase-in periods that extend into 2015. China and other countries have completed implementation, while some countries are still finalizing their implementation plans.
What’s your experience with GHS and its impact on product labeling? Share your comments below. If you have questions about how GHS will impact AFB International labeling, please email me or contact your AFB representative.