Regulations on Food Labeling

An Expert's View about Marketing Regulations in China

Last updated: 22 Feb 2011

6.2 Regulations on Food Labeling


6.2.1  General Rules on Pre-packaged Food Labelling

Under the General Rules on Pre-packaged Food Labelling (GB7718) implemented on 1 October 2005, it is mandatory for production enterprises to provide information on the quality (including safety) of their food products. The General Rules stipulate that the following information must be given on the food label: name of the food, list of ingredients, net content, content of drip dry matter, content of solid matter, name and address of manufacturer, date of manufacture or packaging, expiry date, and product standard number.

Basic Requirements

The language used in food labelling must be standard Chinese. Chinese pin-yin can be used at the same time but the spelling must be correct and the font size must not be bigger than the corresponding Chinese characters. Minority language or foreign language can also be used at the same time but must be a correct translation of the Chinese and the font size must not be bigger than the corresponding Chinese characters. All writings, symbols and graphics used must be direct and easy to understand, and their colour must be in contrast with the background colour. The food label must not be detached from the container. The measuring units used in the food label must comply with the statutory measuring units adopted by the mainland.


Mandatory Content

Name of food - while manufacturers can use any "creative name", "unique name", "transliterated name", "brand name" or "trademark name" on the food label, they must also show the name of the food as stipulated in national standards or industry standards in positions nearby. Where no national standards or industry standards apply, the common name or generic name of the food product which can reflect the true characteristics of the food and does not mislead or confuse the consumer must be shown.

Particulars of manufacturer and distributor - under the General Rules, the particulars of the food production enterprise must be shown on the food label. Food products just showing the city or county where the factory is located are considered non-compliant. Wheat flour, rice, corn starch, white sugar, white sugar icing, table salt, tea leaves, dried mushrooms, foodstuff with medicinal effect (such as Chinese wolfberry) etc produced and packaged in the mainland must indicate the name and detailed address of the production, packaging, re-packaging or distribution unit. Bulk processed products (e.g. edible oil, milk powder, wine etc) imported from abroad and re-packaged in the mainland must indicate the name and address of the re-packaging unit in the mainland as well as the name of the country of origin.

List of ingredients - apart from food products with a single ingredient, all other food products must be marked with an ingredient table on their label under the heading "Ingredients" or "Ingredients Table", listing all the ingredients in descending order in terms of amount. If an ingredient is a compound ingredient consisting of two or more substances, the name of the compound ingredient must be given in the ingredients table with its primary substances listed in descending order in terms of amount in brackets. For sweeteners, preservatives and colourings, their actual names must be given. For edible packaging materials (e.g. capsules, rice paper candy wrappings), their primary ingredients should also be listed in the ingredients table.

Net content - the net content should be marked on the same surface of the packaging or container as the name of the food. Liquid food should be indicated in terms of volume; solid food should be indicated in terms of mass; semi-solid food should be indicated in terms of mass or volume. For containers containing both solid and liquid food (e.g. canned pears in sugar water), in addition to indicating the net content, the content of drip dry food (solid matter) should also be indicated in terms of mass or fraction of mass.

Date of manufacture and expiry date - the manufacture date is the ex-factory date of the food product upon production and passing inspection by the manufacturer. For frozen drinks (e.g. popsicles and ice creams), the date of manufacture must be shown on the external packaging box (carton). The General Rules require that most food products must starkly indicate their expiry date. However, for alcoholic drinks with an alcohol content of 10% or more, edible vinegar, table salt, monosodium glutamate, solid edible sugar etc which do not turn bad easily, it is not necessary to show the expiry date.

Product standard number - pre-packaged food manufactured and sold in the mainland (not including imported pre-packaged food) should indicate on its packaging the code and serial number of the national standard, industry standard, local standard or approved enterprise standard adopted by the enterprise. The marking of a higher standard or misrepresentation of the standard adopted will result in the banning of the food product concerned from the market.

Marking for GM food - food products subject to the Measures for the Administration of Genetically Modified Agricultural Products Labelling issued by the Ministry of Agriculture must indicate in their labels that they are GM food. Examples include soya bean powder, soya bean oil, corn oil, corn starch, rapeseed oil, rapeseed, fresh tomato and tomato sauce
 

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Posted: 21 February 2011, last updated 22 February 2011

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