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China’s New Food Safety Law is Now in Effect

China’s new Food Safety Law (FSL) became effective on October 1, 2015.   The law was passed earlier this year, in response to several high-profile food safety scandals and the need for China to harmonize with the global practice of food safety management. The new law includes a number of significant changes to China’s food regulations and new mechanisms to deepen the reforms.

The revised FSL establishes the basic legal framework for food safety supervision and management; however, like most framework documents, it is short on detail. More details became available in the past few months as the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC); China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA); and General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), along with other administrative agencies, published drafts of several important regulations and national food safety standards.

Some of the draft regulations and standards published since the FSL was passed are discussed below.

  • Management Regulations for Food Operation License (Draft for comment)  & Food Production License, issued by the CFDA, are intended to manage the licensing regime for food production and restaurant service.  The regulation would incorporate the production license for food additives into the scope of the food production license.
  • Administrative Measures for the Audit and Inspection of Overseas Companies by Food Product Importers: This draft regulation would impose heavy responsibilities on local importers to ensure the safety of food products that they plan to distribute in China.  According to the Measures, at least once in every three years, domestic food importers are obliged to conduct an on-site audit of facilities outside of China that produce certain products.
  • General Code of Hygienic Practice for Food Additives would incorporate requirements on food additive production and applies to all domestic production of food additives.  This would include requirements and management code for production sites, facilities and personnel in raw material procurement, processing, packaging, storage and transportation of food additives. Reference must be given to this general Code in the future establishment of specifications for any individual food additive.

While the central government has published or is drafting regulations to enforce the FSL, local governments also are actively developing new implementing rules, which also should be closely monitored by the industry.