July 2022

· 8 min read

FAQ: China’s New Customs Regulations for Exporters

Businesses across the supply chain must meet China’s rules for exported goods. NSF answers frequently asked questions about the regulations.
Industrial port with containers - Custom Regulations for Exporters | NSF

On January 1, 2022, the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) adopted two new regulations on exporting food products to China.

The Registration and Administration of Overseas Producers of Imported Food (Decree 248)

This decree requires businesses across the food supply chain to complete registration for any products being exported into the country via the China Import Food Enterprises platform. Foods are divided into risk categories that determine which actions must be taken to meet the regulation. Once registered, products must include the assigned registration number (CHINA REG. NO.) in both their inner and their outer packaging.

The Administrative Measures on Import and Export Food Safety (Decree 249)

This administrative measure replaces several regulations and covers a broad range of requirements, including the evaluation and review of foreign food safety management systems; overseas facilities registration; record filing by importers, exporters and commercial agents; quarantine and inspection; product labeling; and food safety risk, among others.

The regulations apply to all businesses that export food products to China, no matter in what part of the supply chain. These include food manufacturers, processors and storage facilities.

The following are frequently asked questions regarding the regulations and how companies should now export their products to the country.

General Question

What kinds of food products do these regulations apply to?

The regulations apply to all food products except for food additives or food-related products such as packaging materials and nutrition enhancers.

Decree 248 Questions

Regarding Decree 248, what are the requirements for registration?

There are 18 food categories considered “high-risk.” For companies that export products within these 18 categories, they must register via their local or regional authority that has been approved by the GACC (e.g., the Food and Drug Administration in the United States). Products that are not considered “high-risk” are referred to as “low-risk” and can be registered directly or through a third party, such as NSF.

All registrants must demonstrate food safety and have a health management and protection system in place. Exported products must also meet Chinese laws and regulations, as well as national food safety standards. The company must pass relevant inspections and quarantine requirements agreed to by the GACC and national authorities.

Are there more details on what the registration process involves?

The first step is to identify which risk category the product being exported falls under. The registration website lists 18 food categories considered high-risk, along with their corresponding HS codes. In addition, a link to local and regional authorities is provided.

For high-risk products, once the application is submitted, the local/regional authority will review and inspect the application and submit it to the GACC. It will also check and supervise the ratification of the registrant’s applications. Applications for low-risk products may be submitted directly by the manufacturer.

After the application has been reviewed, the GACC will inform the applicant if any additional information or documents are required, as well as if any corrective actions are needed. This step includes:

  • On-site inspection (as needed)
  • Document review
  • Video inspection (due to COVID-19)

Once a final review of the application is completed, it will be formally accepted. Then at least two auditors will review the document and make a final decision to approve or reject the application.

Why is the HS code important?

The HS code is important because it helps customs officers to properly identify products during the customs process. Failure to register your product under the correct code can result in challenges during exporting. If you are unsure which code your product falls under, consult with a professional, such as the team at NSF. A search function for HS codes is provided on the registration website.

How long does it take for a company to complete registration?

In general, it takes about one month for a company to receive registration.

How does a company use its registration number?

Once a product is registered, the company must include the registration number in the customs declaration forms when exporting food to China. The number must also be displayed on the inner and outer packaging of food exported by registered facilities.

How long does registration last?

Registration is in effect for five years, after which renewal of registration is required.

Where can I find registered products and manufacturers?

A list of registered manufacturers and registration numbers will be published periodically by the GACC on the registration website.

How does NSF support companies throughout the process?

For low-risk products, NSF can facilitate the submission of the registration application and conduct a pre-review to help expedite the process and reduce costs.

For both low-risk and high-risk products, NSF can provide technical support by preparing materials required for the application and corrective actions that may need to be taken to meet food safety requirements. NSF can also help with the assessment portion of registration via an on-site or a remote audit for the corrective action report. Lastly, we can assist businesses with understanding regulations, compliance, labeling and third-party certification.

Decree 249 Questions

What are the requirements that fall under Decree 249?

  • Overseas facilities registration
  • Record filing by importers and exporters
  • Quarantine and inspection
  • Product labeling

How does this impact the labeling requirements for exported foods?

The labeling requirements for food exported to China that was produced before January 1, 2022, shall be applicable to the original regulations. The registration number on inner and outer packaging may be marked or not — there is an option to put it on the packaging or not to. This does not apply to functional foods and special dietary foods/supplements.

For products produced after January 1, 2022, the registration number must be printed or additionally affixed on the packaging. It’s recommended to mark the Chinese leading words “Registration number” on the prepacked label to facilitate traceability and identification among consumers.

Can one producer have multiple registration numbers?

One producer can have multiple registration numbers, but different producers, even for the same product, cannot share a registration number.