Tough New Rules for Importing Food to China
Over the last few years Chinese officials have uncovered a number of serious food safety scandals.These include: the injection of clenbuterol into pork; the recycling of cooking oil; the selling of pork from sick pigs; the manufacture of medicines made with toxic gelatine, and the passing-off of rat and fox meat as fit for human consumption. In response to this and other changes to the Chinese food industry, on April 24, 2015 the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed a number of amendments to the PRC Food Safety Law. The 2015 Food Safety Law, as it is known, came into effect on October 1, 2015.1
The expanded PRC Food Safety Law, the law has increased the number of articles from 104 to 154, covers every facet of China’s food industry and seeks to create a, “refined food safety regulatory system that gives food safety regulators broader and more robust supervisory powers.” 2
Broader Regulatory Powers
The new law also seeks to expand the scope of the regulatory authority in an attempt to bring third-party online suppliers under the auspices of the new law. Article 62 states, “The provider of a third-party online food trading platform shall register the legal names of food traders admitted to the platform and define their food safety management responsibilities”.
Specially Prescribed Products
The new law also seeks to introduce special measures concerning health foods, baby foods, and GMO foods, bringing them within the remit of the Food Safety Law.
The 2015 Food Safety Law makes special provision for health food, which must adhere to the catalogue of prescribed functions drawn up by relevant government departments. Health foods are considered to befoods that claim to have specific healthfunctions and include ‘ special dosage’that would include vitamins and mineral supplements.The law also requires that products be listed under one of two headings: 1) those that require registration; and (2) those that require record-filing. This represents a major department for the registration of health foods and will reflect whether a health food uses an ingredient not covered by the health food ingredient catalogue and whether a health food is imported to China for the first time. In addition, products listed under the health food category will be required to display the warning, “health food cannot be a substitute for drugs.” 3
The new law also brings into effect quality control measures pertaining to the manufacture of baby and toddler foods. Each batch of infant formula food must be inspected before it leaves the factory and producers will be required to file a record with the local food and drug administration concerning: ingredients; additives; product formulations; and labelling.
The 2015 Food Safety Law also requires the recipe of the product to be registered with the CFDA and, in addition, baby formula and toddler formula cannot be repackaged.4
The new law also requires GMO products to be labelled in an obvious position.
The 2015 Food Safety Law also seeks to bring imported foodstuffs under stricter control and bring them into line with domestic rules concerning food safety.
During the last 10 years, China’s food industry has seen a four-fold growth in the levels of food being imported – an increase that averages 17.6% year on year. The evidence suggests this trend is likely to continue, with 2015 reporting a 21% increase. With China’s greater reliance on imported foods, comes the need for greater oversight in order to ensure food safety standards are maintained.
Currently, imported and exported foods are supervised and administrated by The Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Department of the State. All imported and exported food must meet the National Food Safety Standard of China.
The 2015 Food Safety Law has sought to strengthen and extend the power of the Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine. The importer is now required to hold all necessary vouchers, including contracts, invoices, packing lists, and bill of loading, as well as other relevant documents relating to quarantine and entry/exit procedures at the place where the customs declaration is made.
In addition, “new food additive varieties and new varieties of products related to foods,” will need to submit the correct licensing certification documents in Article 63 of the 2015 Food Safety Law.6 Products which do not have the correct documentation will be deemed hazardous to people’s health.7
The 2015 Food Safety Law also requires that those exporting to China will require registration in accordance with Article 65. Registration will last for 4 years, but organisations found to be in contravention of the rules will have their permits revoked.8
The amended law also prescribes that imported pre-packed food and food additives shall require Chinese labels or instructions. The labels and instructions need to comply with the provisions of the 2015 Food Safety Law, and other relevant laws, and shall state the place of origin of the food, as well as the name, address and contact details of the domestic supplier.
The Chinese government has also introduced, in Article 69, the requirement for the State Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau to set up an information gathering network. This will collect and integrate information from domestic and international food safety organisations, along with data collated by the Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau. The Bureau is then tasked with notifying the relevant authorities in order to assist in the maintenance of high food standards.9
In addition to seeking to widen the effectiveness of authority oversight, the 2015 Food Safety Law has also introduced a number of new penalties. Domestic and international companies which are found to be breaking the law, stand to face harsher criminal, administrative, and civil liabilities. For importers of foodstuffs to China, the first penalty will be the removal of the right to trade in China.
The advice from China is that, “foreign investors and firms should be more prudent than ever to ensure compliance with the new guidelines for food safety and sale in China to avoid the possibilities of a food recall and subsequent loss in profit.”
For more information, please contact:
Food Manager China
t: +86 (021) 6140 2561
References:1Food Safety Law of the People’s Republic of China (2015 Revision)[Effective] http://www.fdi.gov.cn/1800000121_39_4037_0_7.html
5Article 35 http://www.fdi.gov.cn/1800000121_39_4037_0_7.html
6Article 37 http://www.fdi.gov.cn/1800000121_39_4037_0_7.html
7Article 38 http://www.fdi.gov.cn/1800000121_39_4037_0_7.html
8Article 39 http://www.fdi.gov.cn/1800000121_39_4037_0_7.html
9Article 42 http://www.fdi.gov.cn/1800000121_39_4037_0_7.html