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China's National People's Congress Passes Reshuffle Plan to Establish New Food and Food-Related Agencies

On March 17, 2018, only five years after China implemented major changes to its food regulatory regime,1 China's existing food Agencies have been completely restructured. In particular, National People's Congress (NPC), China's national legislative body, has passed yet another major cabinet reshuffle plan, which will establish the following three new regulatory agencies:2

* State Market Regulatory Administration (SMRA)

* National Health Commission (NHC)

* Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA)

The stated goal of this organizational restructuring by the Chinese government is to consolidate decentralized market regulatory forces and optimize regulatory resource allocation. Industry may benefit from more regulatory consistency following this consolidation, though it remains to be seen how these changes will play out at both the central and local levels. A general overview of the restructuring plan is provided below.

State Market Regulatory Administration (SMRA)

  • Both the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), an Agency responsible for imported and exported food as well as the manufacture and import/export of food packaging materials, and China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), an Agency in charge of food manufacture and distribution along with the State Administration for Industry & Commerce (SAIC), are incorporated into the newly established SMRA.[3] The new administration, which is affiliated with the State Council, will undertake various responsibilities, including food safety, business registration, anti-trust enforcement, industrial product safety, etc.
    • Importantly, AQSIQ's responsibility for import/export inspection and quarantine currently handled by AQSIQ's various subsidiary units (the "CIQs"), are transferred to the General Administration of Customs. In other words, customs will now be responsible for inspecting imported food and food packaging materials to verify compliance with the Chinese legal requirements. 
      • The Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) and Standardization Administration of China (SAC), which were affiliated with AQSIQ, are now transferred to SMRA. However, the names of both CNCA and SAC will be retained. In this regard, CNCA is perhaps best known as an Agency approving overseas manufacturing facilities for foods exported to China (e.g., dairy products, meat products) as well as product certification (e.g., organic). Meanwhile, SAC is the agency formulating various Chinese Standards.
    • The Food Safety Commission of the State Council (FSC) will be retained, and its responsibilities will be handled by the new SMRA. FSC was established in 2010 to coordinate food management and significant food policies among different agencies. 

National Health Commission (NHC)

  • The National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) is being restructured to form the newly established National Health Commission (NHC), which will also incorporate certain health-related functions from other administrations. In recent years, NHFPC has been responsible for developing Food Safety Standards and conducting food safety assessment. There is no indication that NHC will be relieved of these responsibilities.

Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA)

  • The new Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) will replace the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA).[4] The new Ministry will continue to carry out the responsibilities of the former MOA; these include the supervision of agricultural product safety and approval of agricultural genetically modified organisms.
  • While the institutional reshuffle may not lead to immediate and significant changes in food regulatory policies, its impact on many regulatory matters (e.g., potential delays in the promulgation of the Food Safety Law Implementing Regulation,[5] approvals of food petitions and Food Safety Standards, etc.) should not be overlooked. Although it may be several months - or even years - before the reshuffle is completed, we will continue to monitor these developments and provide relevant updates. 

1. See Keller and Heckman's article on the government reshuffle in 2013 athttps://www.khlaw.com/David-Ettinger-and-Eric-Gu-Author-Article-on-Chinas-Food-Safety-Regulatory-Regime-for-Food-Chemical-News

2.  http://www.npc.gov.cn/npc/xinwen/2018-03/18/content_2050371.htm

3.  The establishment of SMRA was announced on March 21, marking the launch of the reshuffle of food regulatory institutions. See https://www.thepaper.cn/newsDetail_forward_2036753

4.  Notably, similar postures have been adopted in Canada and South Korea, which have each established a "Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs" or "MAFRA."

5.   See Keller and Heckman's China Regulatory Matters discussing it at http://myemail.constantcontact.com/CFDA-Submits-to-WTO-the-Third-Revised-Draft-Regulation-on-the-Implementation-of-the-Food-Safety-Law.html?soid=1116651795207&aid=Sa6S0vtKLHs

© 2023 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 81

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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Jenny Li, Keller Heckman, China Food, Drug Regulation, Shanghai, International Trade
Legal Consultant

Jenny Li joined Keller and Heckman in October 2007.

Ms. Li counsels clients on regulatory issues focusing on food and drug, with an emphasis on regulatory regimes in the Asia-Pacific region. She also counsels clients on food labeling, food claims, food additives, as well as, important issues regarding food imports in Asian countries.

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...

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...

86 21 6335 1000