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Breaking News: Two Key China Food Packaging Standards Now Take Effect

After much time and effort spent by China's National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) updating and revising various food packaging standards, the effective date for two key food packaging standards has now arrived. On October 19, 2017, arguably two of the most important food packaging standards, entered into force. Namely, the revised Additives Standard (GB 9685 Standard on the Uses of Additives in Food-Contact Materials and Articles) and the General Safety Standard (GB 4806.1 Standard on General Safety Requirements for Food-Contact Materials and Articles). GB 9685 is well known to the food packaging industry, as it has a wide impact on all additives used in food-contact materials and articles sold in China. The General Safety Standard has even broader significance, as it requires all food packaging materials to be safe and suitable for their intended use.

While we have detailed the specific revisions and changes to the updated GB 9685 Standard in prior CRMs (available here and here), the new General Safety Standard has several sections that are worth highlighting.  

Specifically, Section 8.1 to 8.6 of the General Safety Standard imposes the requirement that companies marketing food-contact materials in China provide to their downstream customers a Declaration of Compliance (DoC). While DoCs have been more commonly used in Europe, this requirement has now officially found its way to China and, as a result, the industry will have to be mindful of this new requirement.  

Another new concept that China has now formally adopted is the ability to use substances that are not listed on applicable GB standards, provided there is a barrier between the unlisted substance and the food and certain other criteria are met. Please see our previous CRM which sets forth these requirements in more detail here. The introduction of the functional barrier concept in China will open up more doors to companies wishing to use food- contact materials in China that have not been previously cleared. While caution should be used in determining whether a substance can be used in accordance with the functional barrier concept set forth in the Standard, the upside is that industry will have some flexibility to market substances without obtaining premarket approval under appropriate circumstances on a case-by-case basis. 

While we highlight above two very important food packaging standards that took effect this week, it is worth repeating for completeness that, on April 19, 2017, the updates and revisions of several other key food packaging standards took effect. A summary of these standards are set forth below.  

Standard Number

Standard Scope

GB 4806.3-2016

Food-Contact Use Enameled Articles

GB 4806.6-2016

Food-Contact Use Plastic Resins

GB 4806.7-2016

Food-Contact Use Plastic Materials and Articles

GB 4806.8-2016

Food-Contact Use Paper, Paperboard and Paper Articles

GB 4806.9-2016

Food-Contact Use Metal Materials and Articles

GB 4806.10-2016

Food-Contact Use Coatings and Coating Layers

GB 4806.11-2016

Food-Contact Use Rubber Materials and Articles

Accordingly, all of the above Standards are now effective and should be carefully considered when marketing and selling food packaging in China.  

© 2023 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume VII, Number 293

About this Author

David J. Ettinger, Keller Heckman, Partner, Food and Drug Corporation, International Trade Lawyer, Attorney, Shanghai, China

David Ettinger joined Keller and Heckman in 1999. Mr. Ettinger represents domestic and foreign corporations in the area of food and drug law.

Mr. Ettinger relocated to Keller and Heckman's Shanghai office in November 2012 to focus on the Asian market and counsel companies in the Far East on food, drug, and chemical regulatory matters. He has extensive experience counseling clients on product development and product protection of food and drug packaging in the United States, Europe, Asia, Canada, and South America. From 2006-2007, Mr. Ettinger...

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Chen Hu , Keller Heckman, Scientist, Food Chemistry, Regulatory Compliance, Shanghai

Chen Hu joined Keller and Heckman in April 2009. He provides technical assistance in the area of food, food packaging, and chemical control, in matters related to regulatory compliance in Asian-Pacific regions.

Mr. Hu works closely with government authorities and trade associations in various phases of regulatory development. Mr. Hu has prepared and submitted hundreds of Chinese applications for registration of food packaging materials, food additives, new food ingredients, and new chemical substances. He is experienced in auditing plant...

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Mark Thompson Business & Trade Attorney Keller Heckman

Mark Thompson advises a wide array of businesses and trade associations on global compliance requirements applicable to finished foods, food additives, food packaging materials, cosmetics, industrial chemicals, and associated labeling in Asia, the U.S., and the European Union. Mr. Thompson also has significant experience relating to the regulation of drugs and genetically modified organisms (GMO) in Asia. From 2009 through 2016, Mr. Thompson was based in Keller and Heckman’s Shanghai Representative office. During that time, he assisted foreign and domestic companies in evaluating and...