The figure represents an increase of 325% over 2015, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine revealed.
The rejected shipments came from 82 countries and had a total value of US$56.54m. They were flagged for not meeting Chinese regulations and standards, the watchdog said.
Many of them contained excessive amounts of additives, were of substandard quality or were contaminated with micro-organisms. However, most food imports were “generally stable”, it added.
According to Xinhua, China’s official news agency, the quarantine administration has improved its supervision network for imported foods last year and conducted stricter inspections to ensure food safety.
“There were no major safety problems associated with imported food in the entire year,” the authority said.
Food imports to China has been growing steadily as its citizens become wealthier. Over the past five years, the value of shipments has risen at an annualised rate of 2.6%.