China Releases Further Details on Overseas Food Facility Registration
Since the Spring of 2021, China has started reforming its management of imported food products by issuing several batches of key administrative decrees, e.g., GAC Decree No.248 Regulations on Registration and Administration of Overseas Manufacturers of Imported Food.1 Under Decree No. 248, all overseas food manufacturers exporting food products to China after January 1, 2022, must be registered with GAC in advance.2 On November 5, 2021, the Chinese General Administration of Customs (GAC) announced further clarification in its Interpretation of the Regulations on Registration and Administration of Overseas Manufacturers of Imported Food (GAC Decree No. 248) (“Interpretation”)3.
The Interpretation clarifies the following key points in implementing GAC Decree No. 248:
No Transitional Period
GAC Decree No.248 will take effect on January 1, 2022, as announced, with no transitional period as to the enforcement of the overseas food facility registration system.
Imported food products are classified into two categories, i.e., “specified foods” and “others”, subject to different registration requirements. Per the Interpretation, corresponding Harmonized Schedule (HS) codes of goods falling into these two categories are provided on GAC’s official website. Moreover, GAC will provide application forms and templates for the registration applications from overseas facilities to cover the above food categories.
Scope of Overseas Food Facility
All overseas companies that are involved in the production, processing, and storage4 of foods to be exported to China fall within the regulatory scope of GAC Decree No.248, and thus must fulfill its obligation of facility registration. All enterprises, sites, and fishing vessels that conduct food production and processing are included.
In the life cycle of an imported food, different facilities overseas can be used for different purposes, e.g., production, processing and storage. As discussed in more detail below, GAC Decree No. 248 requires all imported foods to bear the facility registration number on its package. Hence it is subject to further clarification as to which or all of these facilities must be declared on the label.
Labeling of Registration Number
Article 15 of Decree No.248 mandates labeling of the facility registration number on the inner and outer package of foods exported to China. Such a number can be issued by China or by the competent authority of the exporting country/region.
Per the Interpretation, “inner and outer package” refers to the package for transportation and package for independent selling units. When a selling unit contains several units that can be sold independently, and the registration number is to be declared on the Chinese label, the Chinese Food Safety National Standard- General Rules of Prepackaged Food Labels (GB 7718) applies. In this regard, the current GB 77185 requires every independent resalable unit to be labeled separately.6 Notably, GB 7718 is currently under revision, thus there is likely to be further details about this requirement in the amended GB 7718.
While the Interpretation confirms the bell will strike for the implementation of the overseas facility registration system on January 1st of next year, along the way, GAC will have to shed more light on some outstanding practical issues, such as the competent agents for “other food” registrants, the registration number to be declared for food processed in multiple facilities, etc. These issues will likely come to a head once industry starts to act to meet the registration requirements with support from their local government. For instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised certain issues to the Chinese government regarding new facility registration requirements under GAC Decree No. Decree 248, such as clarification as to which entities are subject to self-register and which entities must be recommended by the competent authority. Accordingly, GAC plans to publish guidance on which registration procedures apply to particular HS codes.
We will provide further updates as the regulations develop. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this topic or would like more information about China food laws and regulations, please do not hesitate to contact David Ettinger (firstname.lastname@example.org), Jenny Li (email@example.com), Yin Dai (firstname.lastname@example.org), or your existing contact at Keller and Heckman LLP.
 GAC Decree No.248, available at: http://www.customs.gov.cn/customs/302249/2480148/3619591/index.html; Official English version, available at: http://jckspj.customs.gov.cn/spj/zcfg18/bmgz91/3979122/index.html
 See more details in our regulatory news alerts – “China Regulatory Matters” Breaking News: China Imposes New Registration Requirements for All Foreign Food Companies and China’s Overseas Food Facility Registration: Some Deadlines You Need to Know About.
 Enterprises that own places and containers suitable for food storage, and store food following safety and sanitation requirements.
 GB 7718-2011 General Rules of Pre-packaged Food Labels - Questions and Answers (Revised version): http://www.nhc.gov.cn/sps/s3594/201402/544c0539b95d4d35b99ffbc105579071.shtml