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.
- Decree 248: new version of the Registration and Management Rules of Overseas Manufacturers of Imported Food
- 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
- Meat & Meat Products
- Sausage skins
- Aquatic products (fish, seafood)
- Dairy products including infant formula
- Bird’s Nests
- Honey & other products derived from bees
- Eggs & egg based products
- Edible Fats & Oils
- Filled Chinese-style Dumplings and Pasta
- Cereal products and malt
- Fresh or dehydrated vegetables
- Dried Beans
- Spices & herbs
- Nuts & seeds
- Dried Fruits
- Unroasted coffee or cocoa beans
- FSMP foodstuffs or certain diet foods
….I kind of want to add a partridge in a pear tree, which obviously would also be included as meat!
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, snacks, processed food and chocolate which can be registered directly with GACC.
You can create an account here
and log in to it afterwards here.
When you have registered and log in, select Application for registration and scroll down for “Enterprise registration” where you can select the appropriate product category.
Fill in the enterprise and product details and upload the requested supporting documents before submitting for GACC approval.
Make sure that all of your documents name the enterprise in the same way and don’t use any “colloquial” shortened forms of the names or this may lead to delays in the approval. The same applies for your products – make sure that the names used on the labels are listed consistently across all the documentation. (This is actually often a problem for European manufacturers exporting to many countries in Asia. eg. your ERP system only has x characters available for the product name, so your shorten it in some way which is obvious to you, but not to the bureaucrats checking your registration application… or you have a label that says “ginger flavoured soda” but documents printed from your system that are either in another language than English OR say “soda – ginger”).
You can log into the system later to do a query to check on the progress of your application.
Once confirmation is received (usually approx. 5 weeks) you need to arrange for the registration number to be added to the Chinese version of the product labels.
Reach out to me for support if you need help filling out this portal or would like to find a suitable agent in China who can accompany you 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
This law actually replaces 6 other regulations controlling the import and export of foodstuffs. These have been 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.
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
- Product pack shots
- Production flow chart
- Ingredients list
- Manufacturer’s signed statement promising to comply with the requirements of the regulations
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 in English. Nor has the online system of China Import Food Enterprise Registration been updated to help applicants understand the exact requirements. You can however find additional info and FAQs on the Chemlinked Page (may need you to register for access but that is free).
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. That may not happen at the beginning, due to the concentrated nature with all the overseas manufacturers applying but don’t rely on NOT having an audit.
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.
China is giving priority to 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, however it isn’t possible to import other product groups since at least Chinese New Year 2022 without the new registration number.
Once you have your registration number, make sure you print it prominently on all documents related to the shipment to do everything in your power to minimise the chances of any import delays.
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