China's New Food Law: Five Significant Pending Changes  

Opinion Editorial, contributed by Paul O'Brien, China Food Regulatory Analyst, Reach24H Consulting Group.

With the public consultation period ending on July 31st 2014, we are seeing the first article supporting regulations being drafted, which will flesh out the legislative skeleton outlined in China's new food law draft. The revised draft has been expanded from 104 articles to 159 articles with the purpose of building the most stringent food legislative and regulatory system ever in China.

Beyond some of the more obvious changes like mandatory use of Chinese labels for imported foods (Article 92) and clauses regarding infant formula manufacture (Article 69), I have tried to pick some of the more interesting pending changes.

Change 1: Health Food Filing (Article 64-68)

  • Old law: Health Foods imported for the first time should be registered with the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA).
  • New Law: Once all the ingredients are already regulated under Chinese national Standards products will only require filing and no longer require registration. In addition in the past it was necessary to provide documentation proving that the product had a history of at least one year safe market circulation in the country of origin. Under the new law it will be sufficient to provide documentation proving that the sale of the product is sanctioned by the competent food authority in the country of origin.
  • Industry Impact: Market access requirements for non-novel health foods will be greatly reduced. Using Chinese national standards such as GB14880 as a reference it will be possible to develop new supplements that will be facilitated with greatly expedited market access. It is also highly likely the government will publish a positive list of health food ingredients.

Change 2: Total Supply Chain Management (Importer emphasis Articles 86-97)

  • Old law: The only major regulatory barrier for imported foods was CIQ inspection at port.
  • New law: There will be regulatory supervision throughout all stages of the supply chain. It is also likely that traceability systems (Article 45) currently being piloted for domestically produced foods will be expanded to included imported foods.
  • Industry impact: Post market supervision and enforcement is highly likely to increase and in line with this the regulatory obligations for imported foodstuffs will increase accordingly.

Change 3: New Food Material Safety Assessment Dossier Filing

  • Old law: All imported foodstuffs must conform to Chinese national standards. Foods that are not regulated under Chinese national standards and have no history of consumption in China require new food material registration. Under the old law only domestic agents could submit this material.
  • New law: Foreign importers and manufacturers will now be able to file safety assessment dossiers with the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) for approval.
  • Impact for Industry: Facilitates market access, especially for new food material health foods.

Change 4: Domestic Infant Formula Manufacturer Credit Rating System (Article 111)

  • Old law: No Precedent.
  • New law: A corporate credit record system is to be implemented over domestic infant formula manufacturers whereby CFDA will record quality and safety history assessed under specific criteria and accordingly assign a manufacturer rating which will be the basis for future regulatory supervision. The recording system will include information such as, basic corporate information, production license information, regular inspection information, sampling inspection information, risk monitoring information, Illegal activity information, product recall information, food safety accident information, regulators reported information, consumer complaints information, social supervision information, media coverage information.
  • Impact for Industry: China's domestic infant formula industry will be given a major tool to help boost consumer confidence and faith in the quality of domestically produced infant formula.

Change 5: Food Recall System (Article 75,94,98)

  • Old law: No practical precedent.
  • New law: A comprehensive recall system controlling all relevant parts of the food supply chain will be implemented. Will be broadly divided into a general recall system and an emergency rapid response recall system. The system will offer a platform to record relevant information and clearly outline the requirements for recall, halting or ceasing production of foods, traceability, etc.
  • Impact for Industry: The new recall system will govern all aspects of China's food industry.

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