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What’s new on the Registration of Overseas Manufacturers of Imported Food in China?

Xiaoli Shi
14/12/2021

Locations

China

On 12 April 2021, the General Administration of Customs of China (“GACC”) announced the Registration and Administration of Overseas Manufacturers of Imported Food (“GACC Decree 248”), which will enter into force on 1 January 2022.

Upon implementation, GACC Decree 248 will require all overseas food manufacturers, processors and storage facilities of all food products (except food additives and food related products) to register with the GACC.

In this article, we will address how to implement the new provisions and requirements in order to help businesses prepare for China’s Overseas Food Manufacturers Registration under the new GACC Requirements.

Overview

China’s Registration Management System for Overseas Manufacturers of Imported Foods has been established over two decades ago, in 1999. The current version Regulations on Registration of Overseas Manufacturers of Imported Foods came into force on 1 May 2012, and was revised on 23 November 2018 (“the old version”). The GACC Decree 248 ( “the new version”) will enter into force on 1 January 2022.

In comparison with the current measures, GACC Decree 248 presents the following major changes:

•    The applicable scope is expanded to all food categories - previously it only apply to certain categories of foods .

•    Extended registration period - the new version extends the registration period for manufacturers producing imported food overseas, from the current 4 years to 5 years.

•    It details the specific steps necessary when undergoing an evaluation approach - document review, video inspection, and/or on-site inspection – contrasting to the old version which did not detail how to conduct the evaluation by the GACC.

•    New requirements for the labeling of the Manufacturer Registration Number (MRN) on both the inner and the outer package of the product. The old version only required labeling of MRN on the outer package.

•    Held the overseas competent authority accountable for truthfulness, completeness, and legality of the submitted documents, which is new in the GACC Decree 248.

The primary reason why such changes were necessary is due to the rapid growth of China’s imported food trade volume in the successive years, with the second reason being the increasing demand of consumers for imported food safety, lastly, the existing regulations can no longer meet the requirements of the current new situation.

For instance, according to Article 96 of the Food Safety Law of the People’s Republic of China (Revised in 2021 and in effect from 29 April 2021) (“China’s Food Safety Law”), “(…) Overseas food producers exporting food to China shall get registered at entry-exit inspection and quarantine department (GACC). IF registered overseas food producers provide false materials, or cause serious food incidents due to its own causes, they will be removed from the registration list by the competent authority, and the removal will be announced by public notice”.

Who is in charge of the registration?

The GACC is responsible for the registration management of overseas manufacturers of imported foods.

Who will be impacted?

Overseas manufacturers of imported food shall obtain registration from the GACC. Which means that the new version will apply to overseas manufacturers that wish to trade/import foods to China, including:

•    Manufacturer of Production*

•    Manufacturer of Processing*

•    Manufacturer of Storage*

all referred to as “overseas manufacturers of imported foods”

In short, the GACC Decree 248 will be imposed on all the imported edible products including foods, liquor, beverage, and traditional Chinese medicines (except food additives and food related products).

It is to be made clear that the enterprises engaged in manufacturing, processing and storing food additives and food-related products shall not be included.

Where to register?

The China Import Food Enterprise Registration System (“CIFER system”), which is GACC’s registration system, particularly for overseas food manufacturers exporting to China.

Another system is “China International Trade Single Window”, which is where all of the international trade related business, unlimited to overseas manufacturers, need to be inquired, registered or filled to GACC.

Registration methods

Registration of overseas manufacturers of imported foods include recommendation for registration by competent authority of the country/region, and application for registration by a manufacturer.

18 food categories shall be recommended by the competent authorities of their country (region) to the GACC for registration.

Overseas manufacturers of foods other than the 18 categories shall, by themselves or by agents, file applications for registration with the GACC.

Preconditions for the Registration

The competent authority of the country (region) refers to government agencies in charge of safety and sanitation regulation of food manufactures in the country (region).

What are the application materials required under the recommendation for registration?

The competent authority of the country (region) shall examine and inspect the manufacturer to be recommended for registration; after confirming that the manufacturer conforms with the registration requirements, the competent authority of the country (region) recommends the producer to the GACC for registration, and submits the following application materials:

•    Letter of recommendation by the competent authority of the country (region).

•    List of recommended manufacturers and the manufacturer’s applications for registration.

•    Documents certifying identification of the manufacturer, such as the business license issued by the competent authority of the country (region).

•    Statement that the producer recommended by the competent authority of the country (region) conforms and complies with the requirements of these Regulations.

•    Reports of examinations/inspections/review conducted by the competent authority of the country (region) to the relevant manufacturers.

If necessary, the GACC may request documents related to the manufacturer’s food safety, sanitation, and protection system - such as floor plans of the factory/workshops/cold storages, and the processing flow chart, and other (as and when deemed necessary in order to establish compliance with the new regulations).

What are the relevant application materials required under the self-registration section?

Overseas manufacturers of foods other than the 18 categories shall, by themselves or by agents, file applications for registration with the GACC and submit the following application materials:

•    Manufacturer’s application for registration.

•    Documents certifying the identification of the manufacturer, such as a/their business license issued by the competent authority of the country (region).

•    Statement by the manufacturer that it conforms with the requirements and provisions of these Regulations.

Scope of the information to be submitted

The application for manufacturer registration shall contain the following information:

•    The name of the manufacturer

•    Country/region where the manufacturer is located

•    The address of the production site

•    The relevant legal representative

•    A contact person

•    The relevant contact information

•    The/Their registration number approved by the competent authority of the country/region

•    The type of food for registration

•    The type of production, and their production capacity, etc.

Unless stated otherwise, the application materials for the manufacturer’s registration shall be submitted in Chinese or English.

The GACC will formulate all kinds of imported food overseas production enterprises registration applications and filling examples. Details can be found on the official website of the GACC.

Inspection and evaluation

The GACC or GACC entrusted institutions shall set up a review team to conduct evaluations and reviews of the overseas manufacturers applying for registration. The evaluation is conducted in forms of document review, video inspection, and/or on-site inspection. A review team is composed of two or more reviewers.

Overseas manufacturers of imported foods and the competent authorities of the country (region) shall assist the GACC in carrying out the aforementioned evaluation and review.

The contents and standards of the evaluation and examination shall be carried out in accordance with the relevant guidelines of the WTO, OIE, IPPC and CAC, as well as the relevant inspection and quarantine requirements agreed between the GACC and the competent authorities of the country (region), and per the relevant laws and regulations of China and the national food safety standards.

How long does it take?

In general, all the cases will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. There is no mandatory period required and the GACC does not guarantee any specific days to process the application.

However, based on the official guidelines, the GACC did state that it will notify the overseas manufacturer or the competent authority of the country (region) within 20 business days from the date of receiving the application - if the application documents do not meet the legal form/requirements, or if the application was deemed to be incomplete.

The reviewing results shall be indicated manufacturer’s account so that the applicant may check on the progress and status of their own application.

Approval

The GACC shall, based on its own evaluation and review, register the overseas manufacturers that meet the requirements, grant them individual Chinese registration numbers, and notify the competent authority of the country (region) or the overseas manufacturers in writing of the registration/decision.

The GACC shall decline the registration of overseas manufacturers that do not meet the requirements, and shall notify the competent authority of the country (region) or the overseas manufacturers in writing of the denial/rejection.

The list of registered overseas manufacturers will be published by the GACC on its official website.

The Validity Period

The registration for overseas manufacturers of imported foods is valid for five years upon and from the official date of registration.

The GACC shall determine the starting and the ending dates of the validity period of registration when it registers an overseas manufacturer of imported foods.

For overseas manufacturers of imported foods to China that have been registered before the GACC Decree 248, the registrations are still valid and they may apply to the GACC for renewal of registration 3 to 6 months before the registration expires. Failure to apply for renewal of registration in accordance with the regulations will result in a loss of their valid permits/registrations.

NOTE

The information in this article shall not be deemed to be, or serve as, legal advice. We strongly suggest that those interested check with the local Chinese Customs Office, and their representatives, for the official guidelines - with regard to any specific operational issues, questions or concerns.

* Special thanks to Ms. Bianca-Maria Durac who has helped by proofreading this article.

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