China Moves to Finalize List of Raw Materials for Food Use Detergents

Date: Sep 14, 2015

Earlier this year, China's National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) published the Draft List of Food Use Detergent Raw Materials (Ingredients) (First Batch). [1]   The Standard is nearing completion and the Chinese authorities are currently considering final changes to the draft based on comments previously received.  The List includes a total of 121 detergent substances that can be used to wash food (including fruits, vegetables, food raw materials, semi-finished food products, etc.), tableware as well as food industry equipment.  The Chinese authorities will consider final changes to the List later this month, and further suggestions on the draft List may still be accepted.

Under the Food Safety Law of China, food producers and traders must use detergents that are safe and harmless to human health. [2] "Food use detergents" are defined to include substances that are directly used to wash food, tableware, as well as tools, equipment, food packaging materials and containers that are in direct contact with food. [3]   

The new system classifies food use detergent raw materials into three categories. 

  • Class I: Used to wash food (e.g., fruits, vegetables, food raw materials, semi-finished food products, etc.), tableware and food industry equipment. 
  • Class II: Only for use in washing tableware and food industry equipment. 
  • Class III: Only for use in washing food industry equipment.

All substances released in the first batch are Class I detergent raw materials. [4]

NHFPC has also detailed four principles relating to the selection of food use detergent raw materials: [5]

(1)  Substances that have already been used as food use detergent raw materials in China and have undergone a safety evaluation should be included in the List.

(2) Substances proven harmful to human health based on results from safety evaluation are forbidden from being included in the List (e.g., carcinogens and substances with high risk that have been known in China or foreign countries, substances that are banned by relevant domestic food laws or standards, substances that are banned from being used in cosmetics, etc.).

(3) Substances no longer used in foreign countries due to concerns about sustainability (e.g., energy or water conservation) and environmental safety should not be included in the List.

(4)  New food use detergent raw materials not yet included in the List (or permitted via cross-reference) should be added to the list by way of the  Management Rules for the Administrative Approval of New Varieties of Food Related Products . [6] In other words, such substances should be the subject of petitions filed with NHFPC for pre-market approval.

As noted above, The List includes 121 detergent substances that can be used to wash food (including fruits, vegetables, food raw materials, semi-finished food products, etc.), tableware and food industry equipment.  For each substance, the List gives the CAS number, Chinese name, English name and generic name.  The generic names are those widely used in industry, whereas the formal Chinese and English chemical names correspond to listings on the Ministry of Environmental Protection's Inventory of Existing Chemical Substances in China (IECSC). [7] The substances are listed by function groups, which include the following:

  • Anionic surfactants
  • Cationic surfactants
  • Amphoteric surfactants
  • Non-ionic surfactants
  • Processing aids/auxiliary ingredients.

In addition to the substances explicitly referenced in the List, the following substances can also be used in food use detergents. [8]

(1)   Substances permitted to be used in the Food Safety National Standard - Standard for Use of Food Additives (GB 2760) and Food Use Disinfectant Raw Materials (Ingredients) List (2009);

(2)   Sodium, potassium, calcium and iron salts of any acids, alcohols or phenols included in the List, as well as the crystal hydrates and hydrolyzed substances of these salts; and

(3)   Crystal hydrates and hydrolyzed substances of the salts included in the List.            

We understand that the authorities will hold a final review meeting on the Detergents Raw Materials List later this month, after which it will be finalized and become a positive list of ingredients permitted in food-use detergents.  Any substances that are not included in the List or otherwise permitted by virtue of cross-references, will need to be the subject of a formal petition under the Management Rules for Food-Related Products, which are the same procedures used for food packaging materials (additional information on the Management Rules is available on Keller and Heckman's website here).  Should you have an interest in monitoring the further development of the List, please let us know and we will provide you with further updates moving forward.


[1] See http://www.nhfpc.gov.cn/zhuzhan/zqyj/201501/b8eab75f45b145c1a6c737b51f8aef21.shtml.  The draft was published on January 20, 2015, and comments were accepted until mid-February.

The list of 121 detergent substances can be found here:  http://www.nhfpc.gov.cn/ewebeditor/uploadfile/2015/01/20150120132942251.doc

[2] 33 of the amended Food Safety Law, which will take effect on October 1, 2015. 

[3] Article 150 of the Food Safety Law.

[4] See http://www.nhfpc.gov.cn/zhuzhan/zqyj/201501/b8eab75f45b145c1a6c737b51f8aef21.shtml.

[5] Id.

[6] See http://wsb.moh.gov.cn/mohwsjdj/s3593/201103/51117.shtml.

[7] See http://www.mep.gov.cn/gkml/hbb/bgg/201301/t20130131_245810.htm.

[8] See Footnotes 2 - 4 of the List.




Senior Regulatory Counselor