On 12th April 2021 the General Administration of Customs China (GACC) announced important changes to the regulations for imported foodstuffs. These new registration regulations for Overseas Food Manufacturers exporting to China will come into force from 1st January 2022.

So what has changed, and what does this mean for exporters?

Legal Basis for the New Regulations

As with all imported food regulations, the very basis is formed by China’s Food Safety Law. 2 main decrees were issued in April which contain considerable changes compared to their previous versions and where food exporters to China need to take action now.

  1. Decree 248: new version of the Registration and Management Rules of Overseas Manufacturers of Imported Food
  2. Decree 249: new version of Administrative Rules of Imported Food Safety

The links I’ve included above link to the Chinese original version because at the moment, no official translation is available on the GACC website.

I also should add, this is a different process (far more specific) than that of “Recording Overseas Food Manufacturers” which was also necessary in the past & doesn’t replace that requirement.

Decree 248: Registration Requirement for ALL Overseas Food Producers

Until now only the manufacturers of certain “higher risk” product groups (meat, aquatic, dairy & bird’s nest) had to register their production facilities before exporting to China. However in future ALL overseas food producers will be required to register their manufacturing facilities with GACC. (Manufacturers of food additives or food related products are exempt).

2 main application processes for this registration:

1. On the basis of a recommendation from the local authorities in the home market.

This process is the one which will be required for a whole raft of “sensitive” products including

  1. Meat & Meat Products
  2. Sausage skins
  3. Aquatic products (fish, seafood)
  4. Dairy products including infant formula
  5. Bird’s Nests
  6. Honey & other products derived from bees
  7. Eggs & egg based products
  8. Edible Fats & Oils
  9. Filled Chinese-style Dumplings and Pasta
  10. Cereal products and malt
  11. Fresh or dehydrated vegetables
  12. Dried Beans
  13. Spices & herbs
  14. Nuts & seeds
  15. Dried Fruits
  16. Unroasted coffee or cocoa beans
  17. FSMP foodstuffs or certain diet foods
  18. Supplements
    ….I kind of want to add a partridge in a pear tree, which obviously would also be included as meat!
Food factory workers from Pixabay

2. Other kinds of foodstuffs can be registered directly by the manufacturer themselves or their trusted agent.

That would include products such as most beverages and chocolate which can be registered directly with GACC. Realistically speaking, I’m not sure how easy this will be to do yourself if you have no China experience. Reach out to me for support if you need help finding a suitable agent in China who can accompany through these registration regulations for overseas food manufacturers.

Changes to this Regulation

The decree allows for the GACC to change the required application process and materials should the level of risk for a certain type of food, or from a certain manufacturer increase.

Also, should certain countries or regions have alternative agreements with China, those agreements will be valid rather than these registration regulations for overseas food manufacturers.

Decree 249: Extension of Registration Requirements in China

Once this comes into force it will actually replace 6 other regulations controlling the import and export of foodstuffs. These will be consolidated in the new regulation to make it easier for both the authorities and the Overseas Food Manufacturers.

Until now, it was only producers of higher risk food products who had to register their manufacturers with GACC (with the approval/recommendation of their local authorities), however this new regulation extends the requirement INCLUDING THE POSSIBILITY OF AUDITS to all manufacturers.

That means that in future, all overseas food manufacturers who want to export to China have to be prepared for the possibility of audits by the Chinese authorities. The new regulation allows for more flexibility though as to how these will take place, with the inclusion of “written documents”, “video light audit”, “traditional on site” or also the provision for hybrid variants.

food factory image from Pixabay

The Application Process

There will be 2 different sets of application materials depending on which of the 2 registration models are necessary for your products.

With recommendation from the local authority in the country of manufacture

  • recommendation letter from the local authorities (this also pulls them into the responsibility)
  • List of manufacturers the authority is applying for, as well as their application forms
  • Identity documents of each manufacturer. eg copy of business licence
  • Statement from manufacturer & confirmed by local competent authorities that the manufacturer is able to meet Chinese regulations
  • review reports (audit reports) from the local authority on their examination visits to the manufacturers
  • if necessary additional documentation referring to food safety, hygiene and GMP procedures may be required such as
    • floor plan of factory
    • floor plan of cold storage
    • HACCP certification (preference will for sure be given to those certified by the Chinese standard)
    • process flow charts

Direct Application by Manufacturer or his Agent

This is a far simpler process. Documents include:

  • Registration application form
  • Identity documents of the manufacturer. eg copy of business licence
  • Manufacturer’s signed statement promising to comply with the requirements of the regulations
Approval Process for new Registration Regulations for Overseas Food Manufacturers

Additional Details

Usually the Chinese authorities will issue some supplementary documentation aimed at ensuring manufacturers are able to correctly supply the required information for the registration process, however this isn’t yet available. Nor has the online system of China Import Food Enterprise Registration been updated to help applicants understand the exact requirements.

That leads me to believe that a transition period will probably be communicated as it’s unrealistic to expect all manufacturers to have achieved the necessary registration by the end of this year (2021).

Key Takeaways on the new Registration Regulations for Overseas Food Manufacturers looking to export to China from 2022

Whether you already export now, or plan to do so in future you will need to register with GACC in order to be able to export.

Your producer (you) should expect to receive some kind of audit visits – whether this is a video audit or an in person audit will depend on the travel situation.

As an overseas food manufacturer you will have increased responsibility that your products meet the relative laws and food safety standards of China.

Registration certificates will be valid for 5 years, instead of 4 as in the past. Renewal should be made 1 year prior to expiry (hence my belief that there will be a transition period).

Also your importer has additional responsibility under the new law. He is obliged to ensure that his supplier details are correct, including his producer registration number for export to China.

Realistically I think this will take some time for China to implement as it’s quite complicated and not all local authorities are that fast at processing the applications of their members. My expectation would be that China will focus first on those product groups that also needed this kind of registration up until now and where the registrations are up for renewal eg. meat or infant formula.

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