China’s New Regulations for Food Imports and Overseas Facility Registration
The GACC (General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China) has recently introduced two new decrees that, once implemented, would impose significant new requirements for foreign food companies that export to China. Both decrees will come into effect on 1 January 2022, replacing many previous regulations.
On 12 April 2021, the General Administration of Customs of PRC (GACC) promulgated respectively the Registration and Administration of Overseas Producers of Imported Food (Decree 248) and the Administrative Measures on Import and Export Food Safety (Decree 249).
In general, both regulations concern food importation in China. Specifically, Decree 248 is intended to standardize the process of registration at China’s local authority (GACC) for overseas food manufacturers, processors, and storage facilities intending to export their products to China while Decree 249 covers a range of requirements on food imports including overseas facilities registration, record filing by importers and exporters, inspection, and product labeling.
The main adjustment provided for foreign food exporters in Decree 248 is the expansion of the scope of imported products subject to registration at the GACC. Under the current legislation, only overseas manufacturers of meat products, aquatic products, dairy products, and edible bird’s nests, are required to apply for registration. The new legislation, on the other hand, requires all food manufacturers, processors, and storage facilities, regardless of food category, to register with GACC.
Decree 248 also stipulated two methods of registration procedures with GACC for different type of food producers and the high-risk foods. The list of high-risk foods includes 18 categories such as meat and meat products, aquatic products, fresh and dehydrated vegetables and dried beans, fried fruits, and more. Facilities that manufacture high-risk products are required to register with the GACC via their foreign competent authorities, while other food producers can register directly to GACC, either on their behalf or via a private agent.
Besides the noticeable changes in the extension of the scope of imported products and the registration methods, some other key adjustments from the two new policies include:
- The introduction of the concept of “conformity assessments”, which covers the evaluation of foreign food safety management systems, the registration of overseas food export facilities, and required record filing by importers and exporters.
- Registered overseas facilities are required to include the Chinese registration number or the registration number approved by the exporting country competent authority on both the inner and outer packaging of the products.
- The sales packages of imported health food and foods for certain dietary purposes must be equipped with printed Chinese labels instead of only affixed ones
- Imported fresh and frozen meat and aquatic food products require instructions on both the inner and outer packaging of the products, in Chinese and English or Chinese and the exporting country’s language, indicating all the necessary information.
- The registration validity and renewal of registration will be extended from 4 years to 5 years, which is the same as the validity of licenses for domestic food producers.
Overseas food exporters to China should pay special attention to the section in the new policies regarding packaging regulations. At present, only infant formula milk powder products are required to have a Chinese label printed on the packaging (not the label affixed in sticker format). However, under new regulations, this requirement will be extended to all special dietary products, including infant formula foods, infant complementary foods, foods for special medical purposes, nutrition supplementary foods, sports nutrition, and nutrition supplementary foods for pregnant women. In order to meet the requirements of the policy changes for product packaging, overseas food brands will need to adjust their packaging within the next few months before the regulation comes into effect.
These new regulations are a signal that China is increasing the focus on food safety controls of food manufacturers. With major changes in the upcoming import regulations, food manufacturers who already export their products to China or intend to engage in this business should fully comprehend the new policies in order to operate in compliance with the law in force within Chinese territory.