"Measures for the Supervision and Administration of Food Labeling" will be issued soon and it is of great importance to food product manufacturers, operators and other stakeholders involved as it will have great impact on current food labeling method and operation model.
Here below is a brief introduction to the "Measures for the Supervision and Administration of Food Labeling (Draft for Comment)" (abbr. Draft for Comment).
On July 27th, 2020, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) released the "Measures for the Supervision and Administration of Food Labeling (Draft for Comment)" amended based on the 1st round opinion/suggestion collection in 2019. The Draft for Commentis for the second round of opinion/suggestion collection. The deadline for this round of opinion/suggestion collection is August 26th, 2020.
Attention please, here come the HIGHLIGHTs.
1 Food Labeling
Food labeling refers to all the items (words, symbols, numbers, picture and other illustrations, etc.) attached, printed, marked or tagged to the food or its package to identify and illustrate the basic information, characteristics and properties of the food.Food labeling includes food label and instruction. Color of words and symbols on food labeling must be of clear contrast with the background.
HIGHLIGHT: Say NO to the pale white letters on transparent packaging materials.
Draft for Comment unified the labeling requirement on pre-packaged food, bulk food, edible agricultural products, irradiated food, GMO food, special purpose food, imported food and food additives.
2 Production Date and Best Before Date (Shelf Life)
Compared with GB 7718-2011 National Food Safety Standard: General Rules of Pre-packaged Food Labeling (abbr. GB 7718), which only stipulates that the real food name reflected the true attribute of the food should be clearly labeled together with the product name, Draft for Commentsuggested that the Production Date and Best Before Date (Shelf Life) should also be labeled prominently on the package and can be printed on white background of the package surface and the minimum font height of the date is 3MM.
HIGHLIGHT: Draft for Commentspecifies the font height of the date on all food or its package.
Draft for Comment is stricter and more detailed on Production Date and Best Before Date (Shelf Life) compared with GB 7718.
- If there is no space between Year, Month and Date and number of Month/Date is not of 2 digits, "0" should be added before the number. e.g. August 26th 2020 should be 20200826.
- If Shelf Life is less than 72 hours, the Production Date and Best Before Date (Shelf Life) should be labeled to "hour" in 24-hour display.
- If one outer package contains several individual packaged food product inside, the Production Date on outer package should be the date that outer package is finished, Best Before Date (Shelf Life) on outer package can be either the earliest Best Before Date (Shelf Life) among the individual packaged food inside or the individual Best Before Date (Shelf Life) of each packaged food inside.
- Storage Condition should be listed on food labeling. If there is requirement on storage temperature, it should list stored in room temperature, cold storage or freezer. If cold storage or freezer is required, temperature range of cold storage or freezer should be specified. If there is any other requirement on humidity, light or other storage conditions, it should be listed on food labeling.
3 Food Name and Name of Ingredients
Draft for Comment standardizes the labeling of food name and name of ingredients, HIGHLIGHT:
- If a food product is made from 2 or more than 2 kinds of food materials that are evenly mixed and cannot be separated anymore, its food name should reflect the nature of the mixture and can use 1 or 2 of its main ingredients in its naming.
- Ingredient list of Co-pack food should list all the original ingredients of the product being co-packed.
- Requirements on Labeling of iodized salt and reconstituted milk are added: if salt is iodized, "Iodized" and "Iodine content" should be marked on the main display panel of food package; if salt is NOT iodized, it should mark "NOT iodized".
If reconstituted milk is used as raw material for liquid milk, "reconstituted milk" should be marked next to the product name and the ingredient list should state that reconstituted milk is used as raw material with actual ratio. The labeling of "reconstituted milk" should be prominent and its font size should be at least the same as the font size of product name.
4 Food Additives
Draft for Comment stipulated that the specific name of food additives should be listed in the ingredient list. If function name such as Sweetener, Preservatives, Colorants, Emulsifiers and Thickeners are listed, specific name of food additives should be listed next to the function name.
HIGHLIGHT: food additive name will be specified and current labeling method such as INS will not comply.
5 Special Group of Consumers
Draft for Comment stipulated that food labeling should NOT use words or pictures to express, imply or emphasize that the food product is suitable for special group of consumers such as infant/baby, children, elder people, pregnant women if no relevant laws and regulations and standards are in force.
HIGHLIGHT: food advertising and marketing will be affected as words and pictures involving special group cannot be used anymore.
Edible Agricultural Product
Detailed requirement on edible agricultural products are listed in Draft for Comments:
- Food operator should list the name, origin or source, supplier and other information of the edible agricultural product accurately on the product package or display the information prominently at the site of selling.
- If preservatives and other food additives are used in packaging, food preservation and storage, name of food additives should be labeled.
- Encourage display prominently the harvest date or packaging date, storage condition and best before date of the edible agricultural product on the package or at the site of selling.
7 Group Standard
The most important clause in Draft for Comments need to be HIGHLIGHTed is the clause that clarified the status of "group standard'.
Draft for Comments stipulated that Food labeling should list the product standard code that the manufacturer followed in production. Product standard code can be the code of national food safety standard, local food safety standard, national food standard, industry food standard, local food standard, group food standard or manufacturer food standard.
HIGHLIGHT: Draft for Comments clearly definite the scope of applicable product standard and group standard is included. In 2018 Standardization Law clarified the legal status of group standard, group standard can be followed to restrain the industry practice, but there is no conclusion whether group standard can be used as food standard on food labeling.
Now Draft for Comments clarified that group standard can be used as food standard on the national regulation level.
8 Infant/baby Formula Milk Powder
Draft for Comments stipulated that:
- Infant/baby Formula Milk Powder for 0 to 6-month should not have content claim and function claim.
- Infant/baby Formula Milk Powder for 6-month above should not have content claim and function claim on its essential ingredient. Content claim and function claim on its optional ingredient can be made on the minor display panel in words permitted by relevant national food safety standard.
- Labels and instructions of Infant/baby Formula Milk Powder that claim the source of raw milk and milk powder material should label its country (region) of origin accurately.
- Infant/baby Formula Milk Powder that claims the animal source in its product name, the animal source of dairy material, such as raw milk, milk powder, whey (protein) powder, should be listed accurately in its ingredient list.
- If the dairy material contains more than 2 kinds of animal source, ratio of different animal sources should be labeled. If edible vegetable oil is used, detailed vegetable oil names should be listed based on its adding amount in descending order.
- Infant/baby Formula Milk Powder using base powder as raw material should list "base powder" in ingredient list and list the raw material of base powder in brackets next to it based on adding amount in descending order.
Draft for Comments unifies the labeling for OEM. Draft for Comments stipulates that the OEM food product should list the name, address of both entrusting party and the entrusted party (manufacturer).
HIGHLIGHT: Only the name and address of entrusting party need to be listed as per GB 7718. Draft for Comments is stricter as it stipulates that the production license number of entrusted party (manufacturer) should also be listed in the labeling of OEM food.
10 Penalty on non-compliant labeling
The cost of violation, i.e. penalty on non-compliant labeling, is much higher in Draft for Comments as it follows the penalty rules in Food Safety Law of P.R.C.
HIGHLIGHT: for example, the amount of fine and its application:
Food Safety Law: Clause 125 part I: Fine amount:
- for product value less than RMB10,000: RMB5,000 – RMB50,000
- for product value more than RMB10,000: 5–10 times of actual product value.
Penalty applied to (not limited to):
- Using fake, exaggerated and misleading wording or pictures in food labeling.
- Using drug name (excluding food material which can also be used as Chinese traditional medicine, food material used as nutrition fortifier, raw material name or health food already registered) as food name, or adding claim on disease prevention and treatment.
- Ordinary food product using health food name or health function claim.
- Ordinary food product using special purpose formula food name or clinic effect claim.
- Fake labeling in ingredient list or other compulsory content.
- Not labeling the food additive added as per regulation required, or labeling method of food additive not compliant with relevant regulations and food safety standards.
- Imported food without Chinese labeling.
- GMO food without GMO labeling.
11 Imported Food
Draft for Comments stipulates that for placement and content of Chinese labeling of imported food:
- Cannot cover original foreign labels by Chinese labels.
- Content of Chinese label and original label should match each other one by one.
HIGHLIGHT for import agent: it is very difficult to follow in practice as:
- laws and regulations differ between China and abroad;
- different countries have different labeling method;
- some countries are not as strict as in China for claims;
- difficult to tell if the Chinese label reflects the real attribute, ingredient, nutrition value, claim of the imported food.
Draft for Comments stipulates that Chinese label should be attached, printed or marked on the smallest single selling unit of imported food during production and should not add Chinese label onto original foreign labels.
HIGHLIGHT for import agent:
That means the only way is to print Chinese label during production, otherwise, the cost will be higher.
It is difficult to handle the region of origin for food product imported from Taiwan.
Claims prohibited on labeling
Draft for Comments stipulates that: If the food does not contain or does not use certain kinds of material, following claims are prohibited on labeling:
- 0 (zero) adding;
- no adding;
- not contain.
If the food does not use GMO food material, following introduction are prohibited in labeling:
- not contain GMO material;
Food name against principle of public order and good custom or using registered drug name as food name are prohibited. Wording such as "special supply for", "specially made", "specially needed" and "supervised by" are prohibited.
13 Plant Based Meat
Draft for Comments defines plant-based meat as animal meat imitate food product made from plant source food material. Plant-based meat should have "imitate", "manmade" or "vegan" in its product name and label the name of its real attribute.
As there is a certain overlap between GB 7718 and the Measures, we believe that stricter standards should be applied to the priority application of the two. If there is a conflict between the two, we suggest sending a letter to the relevant authorities to confirm its application.
Generally speaking, from legal perspective, since GB 7718 is endowed with a higher level of legal effect by the Food Safety Law, GB 7718 should be applied in priority in case of conflict.
Based on above brief introduction and HIGHLIGHTs, we can find that the Draft for Comments keeps up with times and is more precise and accurate. We will closely monitor the amendment process and update timely.
The article was originally published on HFG Law&Intellectual Property website: http://www.hfgip.com/news/brief-introduction-samr-food-labeling-measures
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.