Impact of GAC Decree No. 249 on International Food Trade

Chicken paw is a classic traditional snack with a relatively complex cooking method. It is rich in glutamic acid, collagen, and calcium. Consuming it frequently not only softens blood vessels but also has beauty benefits.

China consumes over 20 billion chicken paws annually. So, where do the “endless” chicken paws come from?

From January to July 2022, China imported nearly 384,000 tons of chicken paws. The United States was the main supplier (155,000 tons), followed by Brazil (96,000 tons) and Russia (48,000 tons).

Currently, the countries allowed to export frozen chicken paws to China include Argentina, Brazil, Belarus, Russia, France, the United States, Thailand, and Chile. Frozen chicken paws are generally imported in full containers, transported by sea in refrigerated containers.

The General Administration of Customs (GAC) issued the Measures for the Safety Administration of Imported and Exported Food (GAC Decree No. 249), which took effect on January 1, 2022. This regulation has significant implications for overseas food producers and exporters. This article will delve into the new regulations on food import sections and will try to provide guidance for food producers seeking to export to China.

1. Introduction of the Conformity Assessment System

The newly revised “Measures for the Safety Administration of Imported and Exported Food” (Article 10) stipulate that customs authorities will conduct conformity assessments on imported food based on relevant laws and regulations. This update removes the “certificate of inspection and quarantine” requirement from the 2018 version, replacing it with “conformity assessment.” According to Article 6 of the Commodity Inspection Law, conformity assessment includes the inspection process for imported food.

The conformity assessment for imported food covers nine areas:

– Evaluation and review of the food safety management systems of foreign countries (regions).

– Registration of overseas production enterprises.

– Record-filing and quality assurance for importers and exporters.

– Quarantine approval for incoming animals and plants.

– Inspection of accompanying certificates of conformity.

– Document review.

– On-site inspection.

– Supervision and sampling inspection.

– Inspection of import and sales records.

These assessments encompass the entire import process, from pre-import to post-import, enhancing regulatory rigor and extending oversight beyond domestic borders. For different types of imported food, customs can conduct one or more of these assessments in combination. Unlike inspection and quarantine, which focus on specific shipments, conformity assessment covers the entire import process. Food deemed qualified through conformity assessment is permitted for import. Conversely, unqualified food is documented, and based on the issues identified, may be destroyed, returned, or subjected to technical processing before import. For example, frozen chicken paws from epidemic areas may undergo high-temperature, high-pressure sterilization and acid hydrolysis to be processed into organic fertilizer.

2. Evaluation and Review of Foreign Food Safety Systems

The revised measures introduce scenarios where the General Administration of Customs (GAC) may initiate evaluations and reviews of foreign food safety systems, detailing specific content. This not only helps determine if foreign food meets Chinese safety standards but also informs foreign countries about exporting food to China, which is of particular interest to foreign economies.

Six scenarios for initiating evaluations and reviews include:

(1). A foreign country (region) applies to export a new type of food to China.

(2). Significant changes occur in the food safety laws, regulations, or organizational structures of the foreign country.

(3). The foreign competent authority requests major adjustments to inspection and quarantine requirements for food exported to China.

(4). A major animal or plant epidemic or food safety incident occurs in the foreign country.

(5). Customs identify serious issues in food exported to China, suggesting potential safety risks.

(6). Other situations necessitating evaluation and review.

These evaluations and reviews help assess whether a country’s food safety standards pose a risk to China, necessitating thorough examination. For instance, if there are significant legal or organizational changes or if an epidemic occurs, a reassessment ensures compliance with Chinese standards. Recently, for example, the resurgence of mad cow disease in the UK led to an immediate suspension of beef imports by the GAC and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, pending further evaluation.

The evaluation and review content includes food safety laws, organizational structures, epidemic status, pathogenic microorganisms, and related safety mechanisms in the foreign country (Article 13). After completion, the GAC communicates the results to the relevant foreign authorities (Article 17).

3. Gradual Risk Alert Control Measures

The revised measures also specify circumstances where customs may implement stricter control measures for imported food (Article 34). These include:

(1). Potential domestic safety risks due to foreign food safety incidents.

(2). Discovery of non-compliant imported food by customs.

(3). Other emerging food safety issues.

Under these circumstances, the GAC and authorized customs can increase the supervision and sampling inspection ratio to identify safety risks in imported food. Adjustments can target specific foods or exporting and importing enterprises. If increased inspections reveal safety risks, customs may require domestic importers to provide inspection reports from qualified institutions. Persistent safety concerns may lead to suspension, prohibition, return, or destruction of imports, minimizing foreign food safety risks.

Conversely, if stricter measures show a significant reduction in safety risks with no non-compliant products detected, customs can gradually reduce the inspection ratio until all risk control measures are lifted (Article 36).

Feel free to contact us and get the complete version of GAC Decree No. 249.

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