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China Publishes Interpretations of “Administrative Measures on Safety of Imported and Exported Foods”

All production and operation activities of import and export food additives and food-related products are excluded from the application scope of the Measures. The document clarifies nine conformity assessment activities for imported food and the documents required to be provided by overseas manufacturers, exporters or domestic importers.

To help stakeholders better understand the new version of "Administrative Measures on Safety of Import and Export Food of the People's Republic of China" (Decree 249), which was issued on Apr. 13, 2021 and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) released an official document on Nov. 10, 2021. The document addresses the background and necessity of the revision and provides the interpretations of each article in the Measures.

Noteworthy Points Revealed in the Interpretations              

1. Application scope

The Measures applies to the production and operation activities of import and export foods. The Document further clarifies that production and operation activities of import and export food additives and food-related products are excluded from the application scope of the Measures.

2. Importation of foods without national food safety standards in China 

As revealed by the Document, when exporting foods without national food safety standards to China, overseas exporters, overseas manufacturers or their entrusted importers shall submit standards in other countries (regions) or international standards that their products comply with to the health administration department of the State Council.

3. Conformity assessment 

Article 10 of the Measures specifies nine conformity assessment activities for imported food. The document provides specific explanations for these activities. Notably, importers and exporters need to register with GACC and provide conformity assurance. And the conformity assurance refers to certification materials or written commitment submitted by the food importers or their agents to the customs indicating that the imported food complies with Chinese regulations. In addition, importers are also required to submit conformity certificates or documents provided by overseas manufacturers, exporters or importers themselves, including official certificate issued by the competent authority of the exporting country (region), product testing report or self-qualification statement, etc.

4. Audit system established by food importers 

Food importers are requested to establish an audit system of overseas manufacturers and exporters as stipulated in the Measures. Now the Document clarifies the practical operation, that is, food importers shall audit overseas exporters and overseas manufacturers by means of business contracts, and conduct regular or irregular inspections to ensure the compliance of overseas exporters and manufacturers.

Audit items include the review of food safety risk control measures, such as the food safety management system established by overseas manufacturers, and the check of product compliance like food ingredients and labeling items.

5. Labeling requirements for imported aquatic products 

The Measure specifies the labeling requirements of the inner and outer packaging of imported aquatic products in Article 30. Now the labeling requirements are further clarified in the Document. If imported aquatic products directly enter China's consumer market, they must follow all the labeling provisions in Article 30. If imported aquatic products do not directly enter China's consumption market (in another word, being used as raw materials for processing and re-export), all the labeling information should be marked on pallets, containers and shipping cabins, which are recognized as independent packaging units.

6. Supervision and sampling inspection 

According to Article 34, the Customs are authorized to take control measures such as increasing the proportion of supervision and sampling inspection for imported food based on the result of risk assessment. The Document reveals that the adjustment of supervision and sampling inspection proportion can target at products of specific categories; products from specific manufacturers, exporters, importers; or even products from a specific country (region).

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