Registration Obligation for Foreign Food Manufacturers

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With the rapid growth of Chinese food imports over the past few years and the increasing safety requirements of consumers for imported food, the existing regulations can no longer meet the current requirements. In order to implement the provisions of the Food Safety Law of the People's Republic of China on imported food, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) has adopted and published the Regulations on the Registration of Foreign Food Manufacturers in China (Administrative Provisions of the People's Republic of China on Registration of Overseas Manufacturers of Imported Food). The new regulations aim to introduce the concept of "source management" for foreign food manufacturers to ensure the safety of food imported into China. The regulations came into effect on 1 January 2022.


The new regulations expand the scope of registration of foreign food producers to all categories of food producers listed in the Food Safety Law. This emphasizes the preventive role of the registration system at the source in controlling the safety of imported food.


Recommended and Self-registration

Based on various factors, such as the origin of raw materials, production and processing procedures, historical food safety data, consumer groups and consumer habits, and taking into account international practice, the new regulations provide for a so-called "official recommendation for registration" for foreign food manufacturers for a total of 18 food categories (such as meat and meat products, aquatic products, dairy products, bee products, eggs and egg products, edible fats and oils, edible grains, vegetables, spices, nuts, dried fruits, etc.).Thus, a recommendation for GAC registration is made by the competent authorities of the country where the food is produced ("Recommended Registration"). For the other food categories, GAC has chosen the simpler model of "self-application for registration" ("Self-Registration"). The competent authority of the country of origin responsible for the safety and health surveillance of food producers conducts an assessment and inspection of the manufacturer and confirms that it meets the registration requirements.


Foreign manufacturers must log on to the registration system website and submit their application online if they have obtained a system account. If the manufacturer is one of the recommended registration companies, the system account should be applied for through the competent authority of the country where it is located. If the products to be exported to China do not fall under the recommended registration, the manufacturer can set up its own account through the above system. A manufacturer can have only one account, but it is possible to submit registration applications for multiple product categories under one account. The product categories can also be reviewed through the registration system.


Based on the evaluation and review, GAC will issue a registration number to manufacturers who meet the requirements. The registration is then valid for an initial period of five years, but can be renewed. If the production site is moved or the legal representative changes, the previous registration number in China will automatically expire and a new registration will be required.

 

For food products intended for export to China produced after 1 January 2022, the GAC registration number or the registration number approved by the competent authority of the country of origin shall be indicated on the inner and outer packaging. For the packaging, labeling and marking requirements of products manufactured before 1 January 2022, the original requirements shall apply.


What are the effects of the new regulations?

It remains to be observed how the registration requirements can be implemented in practice. Especially for the Recommended Registrations it is required that the competent authorities in the country of origin of the imported food, cooperate with the GAC and ensure access to the system accounts. It should also be noted that the word "Recommended" is misleading, as without a registration, distribution of the relevant food will not be possible in the future. If the recommended registration is impossible in the country of origin, the regulations do not currently provide for an alternative. In this case, it is still unclear whether a self-registration should be conducted as a precautionary measure which we consider sensible or even whether a self-registration is required.


It should be noted that under the new regulations all food manufacturers are now subject to mandatory registration. Food manufacturers should therefore know about their product category and the relevant registration models. The new regulations will also have implications for importers or retailers or wholesalers of imported food in China, as they must ensure that the manufacturers of the imported food have been properly registered with Chinese customs.

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