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China Notifies WTO of Draft General Safety Standard for Food-Contact Materials

June 30, 2015

China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures on May 22, 2015, concerning its draft Standard on the General safety requirements for food contact materials and articles, which was developed by the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC). Comments on the Standard are due by July 21, 2015.

The General Safety Standard applies to all food-contact materials and articles marketed in China in addition to other corresponding Food Safety Standards. It specifies the basic requirements and compliance principles for food-contact materials and articles, including provisions relating to testing methods, Declarations of Compliance (DoC), traceability, and product labeling.

The Standard's basic requirements found in Section 3, specify that substances in food-contact materials and articles shall not migrate to food at levels that endanger human health. Further, food-contact substances must not result in changes to the ingredients, structure, or properties of the food. The Standard also requires that food packaging materials producers perform safety assessments on NIAS.

Perhaps most importantly, the Standard contains language that would effectively adopt the functional barrier doctrine in China. Specifically, it states that "manufacturers of food contact materials and articles must perform safety assessments and control substances (except carcinogenic, teratogenic, mutagenic substances and nanometer substances) which are not in direct contact with food, are separated from food by an effective barrier layer, and are not contained in existing national Food Safety Standards, such that the amount migrating to food shall not be detectable (DL = 0.01 mg/kg)."

Section 2 of the Standard introduces new definitions for a number of terms not previously specified in Chinese food packaging regulations. For example, the Standard defines "non-intentionally added substances" (NIAS) and "multi-layer material/article," as well as overall migration limit (OML) and specific migration limit (SML). These definitions are largely consistent with those contained in EU Regulation No. 10/2011, also known as the "Plastics Regulation."

For more information in this Standard, click here.