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Breaking News: Two Key China Food Packaging Standards Now Take Effect

After much time and effort spent by China's National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) updating and revising various food packaging standards, the effective date for two key food packaging standards has now arrived.On October 19, 2017, arguably two of the most important food packaging standards, entered into force. Namely, the revised Additives Standard (GB 9685 Standard on the Uses of Additives in Food-Contact Materials and Articles) and the General Safety Standard (GB 4806.1 Standard on General Safety Requirements for Food-Contact Materials and Articles). GB 9685 is well known to the food packaging industry, as it has a wide impact on all additives used in food-contact materials and articles sold in China. The General Safety Standard has even broader significance, as it requires all food packaging materials to be safe and suitable for their intended use.

While we have detailed the specific revisions and changes to the updated GB 9685 Standard in prior CRMs (available here and here), the new General Safety Standard has several sections that are worth highlighting.  

Specifically, Section 8.1 to 8.6 of the General Safety Standard imposes the requirement that companies marketing food-contact materials in China provide to their downstream customers a Declaration of Compliance (DoC). While DoCs have been more commonly used in Europe, this requirement has now officially found its way to China and, as a result, the industry will have to be mindful of this new requirement.  

Another new concept that China has now formally adopted is the ability to use substances that are not listed on applicable GB standards, provided there is a barrier between the unlisted substance and the food and certain other criteria are met. Please see our previous CRM which sets forth these requirements in more detail here. The introduction of the functional barrier concept in China will open up more doors to companies wishing to use food- contact materials in China that have not been previously cleared. While caution should be used in determining whether a substance can be used in accordance with the functional barrier concept set forth in the Standard, the upside is that industry will have some flexibility to market substances without obtaining premarket approval under appropriate circumstances on a case-by-case basis. 

While we highlight above two very important food packaging standards that took effect this week, it is worth repeating for completeness that, on April 19, 2017, 
the updates and revisions of several other key food packaging standards took effect. A summary of these standards are set forth below.  

Standard Number
Standard Scope
GB 4806.3-2016
Food-Contact Use Enameled Articles
GB 4806.6-2016
Food-Contact Use Plastic Resins
GB 4806.7-2016
Food-Contact Use Plastic Materials and Articles
GB 4806.8-2016
Food-Contact Use Paper, Paperboard and Paper Articles
GB 4806.9-2016
Food-Contact Use Metal Materials and Articles
GB 4806.10-2016
Food-Contact Use Coatings and Coating Layers
GB 4806.11-2016
Food-Contact Use Rubber Materials and Articles
Accordingly, all of the above Standards are now effective and should be carefully considered when marketing and selling food packaging in China.  
Should you have any questions relating to the regulation of food packaging in China, please do not hesitate to contact the attorney with whom you usually work at Keller and Heckman, or David Ettinger ( or Chen Hu ( at Keller and Heckman's Shanghai Representative Office, or Mark Thompson ( at Keller and Heckman's Washington DC Office.