On April 12, 2021, the General Administration of Customs executive meeting deliberated and announced the Measures of the People’s Republic of China for the Safety Administration of Imported and Exported Food (the “Measures”), which will go into effect on January 1, 2022.
1. Food import
Imported food shall comply with the laws, regulations, and national food safety standards of China and the special requirements, if any, of any international treaty or agreement entered into or acceded to by China. For imported food on which the national food safety standards are silent, it shall comply with the requirements of the relevant temporarily applicable standards issued by the health authority of the State Council.
(1). Conformity assessment
The customs shall conduct conformity assessments on imported food in accordance with relevant laws and administrative regulations on the inspection of imported and exported goods. Imported food conformity assessments shall include the assessment and examination of the food safety management system of a foreign country or region exporting food to China, the corporate registration of the overseas producers, the recordation and warranty of conformity of the importer or exporter, the quarantine approval of imported animals and plants, the attached certificate of conformity, the certification documentation, on-site inspection, sampling inspection, import and sales records, and a combination of all the foregoing.
The General Administration of Customs may assess and examine the food safety management system and status of a foreign country or region to determine the corresponding inspection and quarantine requirements.
(2). Registration and recordation
The General Administration of Customs shall engage in the administration of registering overseas producers that export food to China, and publicly compile a list of registered enterprises. An overseas exporter or agent that exports food to China shall make a recordation with the General Administration of Customs. For food importers, they shall make a recordation with the customs office in the place of their domicile.
(3). Handling of imported food
Food that has passed the customs’ conformity assessment may be imported; if it fails the conformity assessment, the customs will issue a certificate concerning the failure. If the nonconformity pertains to safety, health or environmental protection, the customs will notify the food importer in writing and demand the destruction or return of the imported food. For other nonconformities, such food may only be imported if it has been processed and then subsequently passed the conformity assessment requirements. If the imported food item cannot be timely processed or fails the conformity assessment again despite being processed, the customs will order the food importer to destroy or return the imported food.
(4). Food import risk assessment
If food safety incidents abroad may lead to food safety hazards in China, or if the customs detect nonconforming food or finds other food safety issues in the course of its supervision and management of imported food, the General Administration of Customs and its directly affiliated authorized customs can take control measures based on the results of imported food risk assessment, such as increasing the level of supervision and sampling. In case of a serious situation as defined pursuant to law, the General Administration of Customs may, based on the results of the risk assessment, suspend or prohibit the import of such food items. If the safety risks of imported food have been reduced to a manageable level, the General Administration of Customs and its directly affiliated authorized customs may lift the relevant control measures.
2. Food export
An enterprise producing food for export is required to make a recordation with the customs in the place of its domicile. The recordation procedure and requirements will be established by the General Administration of Customs.
Exported food should be subject to the inspection and quarantine by the customs of the place of origin. If the food to be exported passes the onsite inspection and sampling inspection, the customs will issue a certificate and allow the export; if it fails the above, the customs will notify the exporter or its agent in writing. If the food to be exported can be further processed, it may be allowed for export only after it has been processed and then subsequently passed the customs inspections. If the food item cannot be timely processed or fails the inspection again despite being processed, it will not be allowed for export.
If exported food is reported by international organizations or foreign government agencies for safety concerns, the General Administration of Customs shall form a committee to conduct an investigation, adjust the sampling ratio as needed, require the food exporter to submit examination reports prepared by a qualified examination institution in batches, withdraw the registration recommendation to offshore official authorities, among other control measures.
3. Supervision and management
In case of food safety incidents or epidemics occurring inside or outside the country which may affect the safety of imported and exported food, or in the event of a serious food safety issues in imported or exported food, the directly affiliated customs shall promptly report the matter to the General Administration of Customs. The General Administration of Customs shall issue a risk warning based on the situation by sending out a risk notification within the customs system and reporting to the food safety supervision and administration authority, the sanitation administration authority and the agricultural administration authority of the State Council; if necessary, a risk notification will be issued to consumers.
In the event food safety incidents occurring outside of China may have an impact within China, or if an assessment concludes that there exists an uncontrollable risk, the General Administration of Customs may follow common international practices to directly issue a risk warning within the customs system or to the consumers, while implementing the control measures stipulated under Articles 34, 35 and 36 of the Measures.