Submitted comments to the SAMR on Administrative Measures on Food Labeling (Draft for Comment)

2020-08-26 | Beijing, Shanghai

The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China (EUCCC, European Chamber) thanks the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) for revising and publishing the law in a timely manner and being open for public comments. As an independent and official organization representing European companies in China, the EUCCC has been committed to bridging Chinese government and European politics and business by providing effective communication channels. It actively promotes the communication and exchange among its members, partners, regulators, and other professional associations on issues of common concern in order to promote the sustainable and healthy development of industries. According to the European Chamber, the draft of the Administrative Measure on Food Labeling (hereinafter referred to as the “Measure”) are inconsistent with some terms of existing laws and regulations related to food labeling, which may cause confusion and inconsistency between enterprise implementation and government supervision. Meanwhile, the Measure may have a great impact on imported food enterprises (especially small and medium-sized imported food enterprises) and foreign food import and export enterprises that purchase from different foreign food manufacturers or adopt the mode of overseas commissioned production. Therefore, the European Chamber recommends the SAMR to carefully consider the development and implementation of the Measure. Please refer to more recommendation in the following aspects:

In terms of legislation and enforcement, the coordination and consistency between the Measure and other provisions of laws and regulations on food labels are yet to be improved, such as GB7718 General Standard for the Labeling of Pre-packaged Foods, GB28050 General Standard for the Labelling of Pre-packaged Foods Nutrition Labels, GB13432 General standard for the Labeling of Prepackaged Foods for Special Dietary Uses, infant formula powder, special medical use formula food, health food registration and supplementary provisions of laws and regulations. Particularly on the special food regulations part, given that relevant laws and regulations update quite frequently, too detailed regulations or reference to other laws in this Measure could lead to potential inconsistency in the future when the relevant laws and regulations update again. Therefore, the Working Group recommends that the Measure include only general requirements on special foods or delete this section. Moreover, the working Group recommends that the special food only needs to conform to Chapter IV of the Measure, and that the relevant contents in Chapter II and III need not be implemented. In addition, for infant formula food, only infant formula milk powder is mentioned in the draft for many times, and liquid products or soy-based products are not mentioned, and the direction of regulatory compliance for such product labeling is unclear. Different labeling requirements may cause misunderstanding and confusion to law enforcement agencies, production and business units and consumers. At present, GB 7718-2011 and GB 28050-2011 are also in the process of revision. The Measure will lead the revision direction of these two national standards related to food labeling, which will have a far-reaching impact on relevant food enterprises in China. For the new requirements like “Article 42 related base powder labeling”,since there is no standard to define it, and inconsistent with current regulation, suggest to remove it. At the same time, regarding the regulations related to imported food (e.g., Article 11, 16, 48, etc), the Working Group hopes that the SAMR could listen to the feedback and suggestions of the General Administration of Customs (GAC) and coordinate with the customs department on legislation and execution, in order to avoid bringing confusion and possible additional burden to enterprises under some special circumstances.

Regarding the effective time of the Measure, considering the fact that the food industry was influenced by the pandemic to different extent this year while the Measure has multiple changes, in order to facilitate the enterprises’ adaptation to the changes, the Working Group suggests that the Measure to give 2 year transition period, and to be effective simultaneously with the revised GB 7718 and GB 28050 (GB 7718-2011 had a 1-year transition period and GB 28050-2011 had a transition period of over 1 year and 2 months), to avoid food enterprises frequently modifying their labels, help enterprises manage the relevant cost and reduce the waste of social resources to a greater extent. It is also suggested that the SAMR clarify whether the measures can be implemented in advance during the transition period.

Regarding international cooperation, the Working Group suggests that the SAMR report the draft of this Measure to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in a timely manner, so that member countries of the WTO could provide feedbacks and suggestions.

Finally, some specific provisions of the Measure have attracted the attention of the Working Group. First of all, the European Chamber recommends that the term "quality guarantee date" used in the Measure be changed to "shelf life", which is consistent with the Food Safety Law. Secondly, according to Article 11 of the Measure, the imported pre-packaged food generally adopts the way of attaching Chinese labels on the original imported food packaging. From the point of view of the exporter, it can reduce a series of complicated operations such as the label design of imported goods and the separate production of products, which is more conducive to small enterprises and developing countries for export. From the perspective of the importer, import varieties and quantities can be selected according to the demand to increase the freedom of import enterprises. At the same time, labeling imported products with local language is a useful method of operation for each country, so allowing attaching labels also helps to protect the trade reciprocity. This method is more convenient for imported food enterprises to truly implement the provisions of China's relevant laws and standards to ensure the compliance of imported food labeling. In addition, the European Chamber recommends the retention of Article 47 in the first consultation, which permitted the use of old labels for a transition period of six months after changes in names and addresses of food producers and traders and production license number.

The European Chamber would like to thank the SAMR for receiving and accepting relevant suggestions on the Measure. If there is any question, the European Chamber would like to provide more information for reference.