February 25, 2022

China Imposes New Registration Requirements for Overseas Food Facilities

In order to step up efforts in supervising the overseas facilities of imported foods, China’s General Administration of Customs (GACC) promulgated the Administrative Provisions on Registration of Overseas Manufacturers of Imported Food on April 21, 2021, which took effect as of January 1, 2022 (“Decree 248”).

Decree 248 replaces the existing regulation, Administrative Regulations on Registration of Overseas Manufacturers of Imported Food (“Decree 243”) issued by GACC on November 23, 2018. Decree 243 merely imposed registration requirements on facilities importing meat and meat products, aquatic products, dairy products, bird’s nests and bird’s nest products. Upon the implementation of Decree 248 on the first day of 2022, however, all imported foods shipped to China, of which the final production is completed on or after January 1, 2022, are required to have their registration numbers issued by GACC on the inner and outer packaging of the products.

Set forth below are a number of highlighted areas for compliance with Decree 248:

1. Who shall register?

All overseas food manufacturers, processors and storage facilities shall register with the GACC for imported products to China. Only the production, processing and storage facilities of food additives and food-related products will be exempted. GACC further clarified verbally with U.S. government officials on November 19, 2021, that only the final production facility of a manufactured food product will require registration.

2. Where to register?

GACC provides two ways for the applicants to access the registration system and complete the online application. Applicants can either visit https://cifer.singlewindow.cn directly, or go to the homepage of https://www.singlewindow.cn and then click on “China Import Food Enterprise Registration.”

3. How to register?

The two registration methods under Decree 248 are “Recommended Registration” and “Self-Registration,” which differ based on the specific type of the imported food. GACC divides the foods into two categories: “Specified Foods” and “Others.”

Recommended Registration

Decree 248 comprehensively lists 18 types of Specified Foods: meat and meat products, aquatic products, dairy products, bird’s nests and bird’s nest products, casings, bee products, eggs and egg products, edible oils and fats, stuffed food made of flour, edible grains, milled grain industrial products and malt, fresh and dehydrated vegetables and dried beans, seasonings, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, unroasted coffee beans and cocoa beans, special dietary food, and health food.

For Specified Foods, a recommendation from a competent authority in the applicant’s home country must be obtained as a condition for the registration with GACC. Such a competent authority shall be the government agency that is in charge of food safety and hygiene. For example, the application process for U.S. applicants shall be initiated with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to the instruction released by FDA recently, U.S. facilities of Specified Foods need to submit an application via FDA’s Export Listing Module to provide the information relating to the products they import to China. FDA may further provide an attestation directly to GACC for qualified U.S. facilities.1 However, such a measure seems to be an ad hoc method allowing FDA to facilitate the GACC registration, for the application was only available from December 6, 2021, to December 17, 2021.2 FDA’s instructions on the future recommended registration process are yet to be released.

Self-Registration

For other types of food products, overseas food facilities may complete self-registration directly through GACC’s registration system mentioned in Section 2 above. The Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has also published instructions for U.S. facilities on the self-registration process.

Furthermore, each overseas facility may only apply for one registration account, whereas various registration numbers can be obtained for different types of imported products.

4. Which information shall be submitted?

Decree 248 requires the applicant to submit a series of information on the facility and the production of imported foods, including, among others: the name of the manufacturer, the address of the facility, the type of the production, the manufacturer’s annual production capacity and actual production capacity, the number of employees, etc. The submission with respect to the production information has raised concerns from overseas facilities, as it includes the mandatory disclosure regarding confidential business information of the applicant.

We have also consulted with FDA officials recently regarding this issue, and they noted that GACC had assured the U.S. government that the appropriate protection would be in place. However, since there are no specific provisions or guidelines addressing the extent to which the facilities should disclose, FDA reminds the U.S. facilities that they should be careful with the information they submit to the GACC registration system.

5. Where to check the result of the registration application?

The applicant may check the process and the result of the review through the registration system. The list of registered overseas facilities will be published on the official GACC website. The information made public on the list will include the applicant’s name, address, registration number, contact information and time of the registration. Sensitive information relating to the production is not within the scope of GACC’s disclosure.

For More Information

Faegre Drinker will continue to monitor and provide insights with respect to GACC’s imported food registration topics.

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