On Feb. 4, 2016, the Special Act on Imported Food Safety Management (the "Imported Food Act") goes into effect. By providing a unified piece of legislation that combines and refines various provisions of disparate statutes ranging from the Food Sanitation Act to the Health Foods Act to the Livestock Sanitation Act, the Imported Food Act streamlines imported food safety regulation in Korea.  At the same time, the Imported Food Act also revamps imported food safety regulation by shifting back the primary point of regulation from the customs phase to the production phase.  Among the changes are new provisions requiring registration and more rigorous onsite inspection of overseas production sites.

1. Scope of the Imported Food Act

The table below summarizes various types of food that are governed by the Imported Food Act.


Imported food, including produce and seafood, food additives, and devices/containers/packages containingimported food(as defined in Article 2 of the Food Sanitation Act)

"Health Food"

Food, including processed food, containing raw materials or ingredients that promote health(as defined in Article 3 of the Health Foods Act)

"Livestock Products"

Meat (including processed meat), dairy products, and egg products(as defined in Article 2 of the Livestock Sanitation Act)

 Key provisions of the Imported Food Actare as follows.

1. Registration required for overseas production sites (to go into effect on Aug. 4, 2016)

An importer, or a person establishing or operating anoverseasfacility (including any ship) producing, processing, packaging, or storing any food (excluding any livestock product) to be imported into Korea must file with the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety(the "Ministry") a registration indicating the name, location, and production items of the overseasfacility.

In case of any failure to file a registration where required, or in case of a false declaration, importation of the food products at issue will bebarred and will also be subject to suspension of business and/or a criminal sanction (a prison sentence not exceeding five years or a fine not exceeding KRW 50 million (approx.USD 42,000).

2. More rigorous inspection of overseas production sites

Where inspectionof an overseas production site is required to prevent harm and ensure safety, the Ministry may conduct such inspection after a discussion with the applicablenational governmentor the overseas producer.  Any refusal to submit to an onsiteinspection request, or any serious problem revealed by an onsite inspection, may result in revocation of an import license in Korea.

3. Sanitation evaluation and overseas officeregistration –required for livestock products (to go into effect on Aug. 4, 2016)

If a country or region has not been evaluated for sanitation quality, a livestock product from that country or region may not be imported into Korea.  Any country or region approved for importation under existing livestock regulation is deemed approved for importation of livestock products.

Further, a registration is required for any overseas office where livestock imported into Korea is slaughtered, processed, or stored, or where livestock is milked for production, processing, or storage of dairy productsimported into Korea.  A person establishing or operating such overseas office is required to file a registration for that office prior to importation through the government of the exporting country.  In case any inspection or confirmation is needed in regard to the registration, the Ministry may conduct an onsite inspection.  Any overseas office approved under existing livestock regulation, or with a record of having imported livestock products into Korea, is deemed registered.

4. Registration of importer(effective onFeb. 4, 2016)

An importerof food, health food,or livestock product must file a registration with the Ministry,but any importer already licensed, approved,or registered under the existing statutes is deemed registered.

2. Implications

As noted above, the Imported Food Actrequires, among others, registration and onsite inspection of overseas sites producing food products to be imported into Korea.  As failure to comply with these requirements may result in a criminal sanction –not to mention revocation of an import license –in Korea, those engaged in importation of food products into Korea are advised to pay careful attention to relevant provisions of the Imported Food Act.

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.