The platform was launched under the state-owned China International Trade Single Window service facility and has been dubbed the China Import Food Enterprises Registration platform. Its release is in advance of the upcoming enforcement by local customs of China’s ‘Administrative Provisions on the Registration of Overseas Manufacturers of Imported Foods), which will be on January 2022.
“All overseas food manufacturers are reminded that the new regulations will come into effect immediately on January 1 2022, with no further grace period given. This will apply to all food products made overseas, not including additives or contact materials,” the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) said in a formal statement.
“[We advise] all parties involved to make haste to complete the necessary registration in time via the online platform. Please also note that there are 18 food categories which will require prior recommendation from the competent authority of the exporting countries with clear documentation.
“The objective of the new regulations [and] the new platform is to strengthen our management of imported food products manufactured overseas [before these enter] through our borders, as well as to ensure that food safety is [maintained] in accordance with China’s required standards.”
The 18 categories stated above include meat and related products, seafood and related products, dairy products, bird's nest and related products, apiary products, eggs and related products, edible oils and fats, cereals, flour and malt products, processed vegetables and beans, seasonings, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, unroasted coffee beans and cocoa beans and more.
All of these will require additional recommendation documents from the exporting country’s food safety authority, e.g. the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for companies New Zealand, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment for companies in Australia, or Food Safety and Standards Authority India [FSSAI] for firms in India.
Firms making products from other categories that don’t fall within this list such as soft drinks, confectionary, snacks not made from any ingredients requiring permission and so on will be able to register directly via the China Import Food Enterprises Registration platform without needing to obtain prior permission from the relevant regulators.
Regardless, all registrations will be reviewed closely by China before approval, whereupon a registration number will be given to the exporting firm.
“Registered food manufacturers will be provided with a Chinese registration number, which should be displayed on both the inner and outer packaging (bulk packaging and individual packaging) of the products being exported to China,” added the GACC.
“GACC encourages all firms to include the Chinese registration number provided to them on their packaging for the long term [in order to prevent any custom clearance issues].
“Overseas firms may also appoint local agents to handle this registration in order to avoid language issues, but will need to provide proof that they have given them power of attorney to do this and must also inform GACC if this is altered or revoked.”
Food safety in China
China’s implementation of regulations to govern the food safety incoming food and beverage imports has only been growing in stringency since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the region, as one of the only countries globally to have implemented COVID-19 testing on food imports.
Fresh foods in particular were a strong subject of focus last year after the country saw an outbreak linked to salmon found in a market, and many fresh food firms exporting to China issued with letters promising ‘no COVID-19 contamination’ to sign or risk being refused entry.
Although not formally linked with COVID-19 concerns, this new platform appears to be a culmination or final version of all the extra measures that China has taken so far to ensure local food safety, as by registering on the platform a foreign manufacturer gives permission to the country to conduct an ‘investigation’ of sorts into various aspects of its business before being allowed to export there at all.
“GACC will personally or via a relevant organisation set up an audit team to check each registration, and will conduct checks via methods such as video inspections, documentation inspections, possible on-site inspections and more to thoroughly assess and analyse the relevant manufacturer’s business [and production] environment,” said GACC.
“Each audit team will comprise of no less than two auditing members, [and] both the overseas manufacturer and the local supervising authority should co-operate and assist with these investigations.”