Hong Kong enacted its first-ever Pesticide Residues in Food Regulation in 2012, which will come into force on August 1, 2014 (Section V).
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY USDA STAFF
AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT POLICY
Required Report - public distribution
GAIN Report Number: HK1233
Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards -
FAIRS Country Report
Hong Kong enacted its first-ever Pesticide Residues in Food Regulation in 2012, which will come into
force on August 1, 2014 (Section V). In addition, the Hong Kong government is planning to introduce
and enact a labeling and nutrition regulation on formula and food products for infants and young
children under 36 months of age. The implementation date has yet to be determined. As an interim
measure, the HKG will introduce voluntary guidelines which are to be implemented in 2013 regulating
the marketing, labeling and nutrition requirements for formula and food products for infants and
young children under 36 months of age. These guidelines named as the Hong Kong Code also covers
feeding bottles, teats and pacifiers (Section VII). The introduction of the mandatory egg certification
regulation, initially scheduled in 2012, has been procrastinated without any revised timeline.
This report was prepared by the Office of Agricultural Affairs of the USDA/Foreign Agricultural
Service in Hong Kong for U.S. exporters of domestic food and agricultural products. While every
possible care was taken in the preparation of this report, information provided may not be
completely accurate either because policies have changed since its preparation, or because clear and
consistent information about these policies was not available. It is highly recommended that U.S.
exporters verify the full set of import requirements with their foreign customers, who are normally
best equipped to research such matters with local authorities, before any goods are shipped. FINAL
IMPORT APPROVAL OF ANY PRODUCT IS SUBJECT TO THE IMPORTING COUNTRY’S RULES AND
REGULATIONS AS INTERPRETED BY BORDER OFFICIALS AT THE TIME OF PRODUCT ENTRY.
Section I. Food Laws:
Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance, Cap.132
In Hong Kong, the legal framework for food safety control is defined in part V of the Public Health and
Municipal Services Ordinance, Cap.132 and subsidiary legislation. The basic tenet is that no food
intended for sale should be unfit for human consumption. The list of subsidiary legislation follows:
Coloring Matter in Food Regulations
Dried Milk Regulations
Food Adulteration (Artificial Sweeteners) Regulations
Food Adulteration (Metallic Contamination) Regulations
Food and Drugs (Composition and Labeling) Regulations
Food Business Regulation
Frozen Confections Regulation
Harmful Substances in Food Regulations
Imported Game, Meat and Poultry Regulations
Mineral Oil in Food Regulations
Preservatives in Food Regulations
Pesticide Residues in Food Regulations
Food Safety Ordinance, Cap 612
A new food law, the Food Safety Ordinance (Cap.612) was enacted in 2011. It provides new food
safety control measures, including a registration program for food importers and distributors and a
requirement for traders to maintain business records so as to enhance food traceability. The
Ordinance came into full operation on February 1, 2012.
The new Food Safety Ordinance will require the U.S. government to issue health certificates for meats,
poultry eggs and seafood exports to Hong Kong through its two Subsidiary regulations. (These two
regulations have not yet been introduced.) For U.S. exports, the new Ordinance will primarily impact
U.S. seafood exports because previous agreements already satisfy certification requirements for meats
and eggs. A protocol for certification requirements for U.S. seafood exports to Hong Kong is in the
process of discussion. The latest development on seafood certification requirements is contained in
GAIN report HK1141. The Hong Kong government (HKG) is still working on the import protocol with
various seafood supplying countries. There is no indication when the regulation will be introduced.
The HKG initially planned to introduce a regulation requiring mandatory certification for eggs in late
2011 or early 2012. However, it has been procrastinated and no revised timeline has been
announced. As such, U.S. egg shipments to Hong Kong are not yet required to provide health
certificates, although they are very often provided on a voluntary basis.
The new food ordinance also empowers the authorities to make regulations for tightening import
controls on specific food types and to make orders to prohibit the import and supply of problem food
and order the recall of such food.
Hong Kong’s Center for Food Safety, which operates under the Hong Kong Food and Environmental
Hygiene Department (FEHD) is responsible for implementing territory-wide food safety control policies
and enforcing food related legislation. It encourages Hong Kong food importers to obtain health
certificates issued by health authorities of countries of origin, which should accompany imports
certifying the food product concerned is fit for human consumption. The legislation empowers FEHD
to take food samples at the point of entry to Hong Kong for various kinds of tests, including
bacteriological examination and chemical analyses. FEHD, upon request, will pay market prices of any
food samples taken.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department is responsible for the prevention of the
introduction and spread of animal and plant diseases through the enforcement of the related animal
and plant regulations.
Hong Kong and China Relationship
Hong Kong became the Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China on July 1,
1997. The Basic Law (mini-constitution) provides a constitutional framework for the Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region (SAR). It institutionalizes the concept of “one country, two systems”. The Basic
Law clearly prescribes that the social, economic and political systems in Hong Kong will be different
from those in the mainland of China. It protects the rights, freedoms and life-style of Hong Kong
people until the year 2047. The Basic Law guarantees the independence of Hong Kong’s judiciary and,
apart from foreign affairs and defense, gives Hong Kong people full responsibility to manage their own
affairs. It allows Hong Kong complete financial autonomy, and the independence of its monetary
system. Perhaps most importantly, it establishes Hong Kong as a separate international customs
territory, enabling it to work directly with the international community to control trade in strategic
commodities, drugs, illegal transshipments, and to protect intellectual property rights. Hong Kong
remains a free port, maintaining free trade practices.
The Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law define Hong Kong as a separate customs territory
and allows, using the name “Hong Kong, China”, independent participation in international
organizations and international trade agreements. While being a separate member of World Trade
Organization (WTO) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Hong Kong participates in Codex as
a member of China’s delegation and serves as an observer of the World Organization for Animal Health
(OIE). Hong Kong maintains that it draws reference from Codex and OIE in the context of food safety
standards and animal health standards.
Hong Kong has its own food and agricultural import regulations, which are different from those in
Section II. Labeling Requirements:
The Food and Drugs (Composition and Labeling) Regulations require food manufacturers and packers
to label their products in a prescribed, uniform and legible manner. The following information is
required to be marked on the label of all prepackaged food except for ‘exempted items’ as provided in
the Regulations. Prepackaged food means any food packaged in such a way that the contents cannot
be altered without opening or changing packaging and the food is ready for presentation to the
ultimate consumer or a catering establishment as a single food item.
1. Name of the Food
Prepackaged food shall be legibly marked or labeled with its name or designation.
The food name should not be false, misleading or deceptive but should serve to make the
nature and type of food known to the purchasers.
2. List of Ingredients
Preceded by an appropriate heading consisting of the words “ ingredients”, “composition”,
“contents” or words of similar meaning, the ingredients should be listed in descending order of
weight or volume determined as at the time of their use when the food was packaged.
If a food consists of or contains any of the following substances, the name of the substance
shall be specified in the list of ingredients.
cereals containing gluten, (namely wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt or their hybridized
strains and their products);
crustacean and crustacean products;
eggs and egg products;
fish and fish products;
peanuts, soybeans and their products;
milk and milk products (including lactose);
tree nuts and nut products;
An additive constituting one of the ingredients of a prepackaged food shall be listed by both its
functional class and its specific name or its identification number under the International
Numbering System (INS) for Food Additives. The trade is also at liberty to use the prefix “E” or
“e” with the INS number as adopted by the European Union under the E-numbering system.
If a food consists of or contains sulphite in a concentration of 10 parts per million or more, the
functional class of the sulphite and its name shall be specified in the list of ingredients.
3. Indication of “best before” or “use by” date
Prepackaged food shall be legibly marked or labeled with the appropriate durability indication as
a “best before” (in Chinese characters as well) date; and
in the case of a prepackaged food which, from the microbiological point of view, is highly
perishable and is likely, after a short period, to constitute an immediate danger to human
health, a “ use by” (in Chinese characters as well) date.
The words “use by” and “best before” in English lettering and Chinese characters followed by the date
up to which specific properties of the food can be retained, to indicate the shelf life of the food. The
“use by” or “best before” date should be shown either in Arabic or in both the English and Chinese
languages. The day, month and year can appear in any order but the exact sequence has to be clearly
declared in both Chinese and English. For specific details refer to the Regulation.
Deep-frozen food and any food with a shelf life of more than 18 months are also required to mark a
“best before” date.
4. Statement of Special Conditions for Storage or Instruction for Use
If special conditions are required for storage to retain the quality or special instructions are needed for
prepackaged food use, a statement should be legibly marked on the label.
5. Name and Address of Manufacturer or Packer
Prepackaged food shall be legibly marked or labeled with the full name and address of the
manufacturer or packer, except under the following situations:
The package is marked with an indication of the country of origin and the name and address of
the distributor or brand owner in Hong Kong, and the address of the manufacturer or packer of
the food in its country of origin has been notified in writing to the Director of FEHD.
The package is marked or labeled with an indication of its country of origin and with a code
marking identifying the manufacturer or packer in that country and particulars of the code
marking and of the manufacturer have been notified in writing to the Director of FEHD.
6. Count, Weight or Volume
The food label should include the numerical count or net weight or net volume of the food.
7. Appropriate Language
The marking or labeling of prepackaged food can be in either the English or the Chinese language or in
both languages. If both the English and Chinese languages are used in the labeling or marking of
prepackaged food, the name of the food, nutritional labeling and the list of ingredients shall appear in
8. Exempt from Labeling Regulations
The following food categories are exempted from labeling regulations: individually wrapped
confectionery products and preserved fruits intended for sale as a single item; prepackaged foods for
sale at catering establishment for immediate consumption and wines, fruit wines and other drinks with
an alcoholic strength by volume of 10 percent or more.
For alcoholic drinks with an alcoholic strength by volume of more than 1.2 per cent but less than 10 per
cent, the durability period will need to be labeled on the drinks. Apart from this, they will be exempted
from all other labeling requirements.
The HKG released a Code of Practice regarding the Labeling of Alcoholic Drinks. This labeling guideline
is provided to the trade for them to follow on a voluntary basis. (Under the Dutiable Commodities
Regulation, every container containing liquor for local consumption is required to be labeled with the
alcoholic strength.) Details refer to GAIN Report #HK5021.
For detailed import regulation guidelines on wine, please refer to GAIN Report #HK0033.
The HKG accepts stick-on labels as long as they meet local requirements.
Under the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labeling) Regulations, it is an offense to sell any
food after its “use by” date. Furthermore, any person who, not being the food manufacturer or
packer or without their written authorization, removes or obliterates any particulars on the
label required under these regulations also commits an offense.
10. Labeling on Biotech Food
The HKG does not have any specific biotechnology regulations with regard to the labeling of biotech
food products. The HKG makes no distinction between conventional and biotech foods. All are subject
to the same food safety regulation.
The HKG, after evaluating the impact of its voluntary labeling scheme for biotech food products,
released its conclusions to the Legislative Council on July 8, 2008, suggesting there is no need for a
mandatory labeling law in Hong Kong. The HKG noted difficulty in carryout a law that currently does
not have an international standard to back it up. As a result of its evaluation, the HKG plans to
continue to promote voluntary labeling of GMO products as a viable alternative for the trade.
The HKG released a set of guidelines on voluntary labeling for biotech foods in 2006. The guidelines on
labeling for biotech foods are advisory in nature and do not have any legal effect. Adoption is entirely
voluntary and is not binding. The guidelines apply to prepackaged food. The guidelines are based on
the following four principals.
The labeling of biotech food will comply with the existing food legislation.
The threshold level applied in the guideline for labeling purpose is 5 percent, in respect of
individual food ingredient.
Additional declaration on the food label is recommended when significant modifications of the
food, e.g. composition, nutrition value, level of anti-nutritional factors, natural toxicant,
presence of allergen, intended use, introduction of an animal gene, etc, have taken place.
Negative labeling is not recommended.
As the guideline is voluntary, U.S. food exports should not be affected if they choose not to have any
biotech labeling. However, it should be noted that the HKG does not encourage negative labeling
particularly for the use of the following terms:
Free from GM ingredients, etc
For products with such definite negative labeling, the HKG may take the initiative to test the products
against GM ingredients and zero tolerance will be adopted for testing purposes. If products are found
to have misleading labeling, a retailer may be subject to prosecution under Section 61 – False Labeling
and Advertisement of Food or Drugs of Chapter 132 Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance.
If the trade chooses to apply negative labeling, the government advises to use less definite terms such
as “sourced from non-GM sources” (which contains less than 5 percent of GM content) and to have
documentation to substantiate such declaration.
For more details on the voluntary labeling guidelines and biotechnology in Hong Kong, please refer to
GAIN Reports #HK6026 & #HK1220 respectively.
11. Requirements Specific to Nutritional Labeling
Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on May 28, 2008 passed a nutrition labeling regulation which took
effect July 1, 2010. Hong Kong’s nutrition labeling regulation requires all prepackaged food sold in
Hong Kong to label energy plus seven nutrients namely: protein, carbohydrate, fat, saturated fat, trans
fat, sodium and sugars. Products selling less than 30,000 units a year can apply for small volume
exemption provided that the products do not carry any nutritional claims. Traders applying for
exemption have to pay HK$345 (US$44) per product variety for the first year and HK$335 (US$43) for
Hong Kong’s nutrition labeling regulation is unique; meaning all imported foods making nutritional
claims from all sources will have to be re-labeled for the Hong Kong market. Despite the fact that the
U.S. requires the labeling of 15 energy/nutrients and Hong Kong only seven, U.S. products may not
meet with the Hong Kong nutrition labeling requirements due to different nutrient definitions,
rounding practices, and recommendations for daily consumption. Virtually all U.S. products carrying
claims will require labeling changes and/or nutrient testing.
Given below are some key areas that U.S. labels cannot comply with Hong Kong’s nutrition labeling
1) U.S. products carrying claims on vitamins and minerals need to label claimed vitamins in absolute
value per 100 gm or per serving size if they are to be sold in Hong Kong. The U.S. labeling law requires
vitamin and mineral content to be labeled in percentage of minimum daily requirement while Hong
Kong requires all claimed nutrients to be labeled in absolute value.
2) U.S. and Hong Kong have set different conditions for making nutritional claims. For example, Hong
Kong’s standard for “low fat” is 3 gm per 100 gm of food, while the U.S. standard is 3 gm per serving.
Therefore, a “low fat” U.S. product may not be allowed to make a low fat claim if it is to be sold in
3) U.S. and Hong Kong have set a different definition of zero for various nutrients. For example, Hong
Kong’s zero definition of transfat is 0.3 gm/100 gms, while the U.S. is 0.5 gms/serving. Therefore, a “0
transfat” on the nutrition panel of a U.S. product may violate Hong Kong’s nutrition regulation if it is to
be sold in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s nutrition labeling regulation also covers nutrient function claims, which have to fulfill the
The nutrient function claim is based on scientific substantiation and scientific consensus;
The nutrient function claim must contain information on the physiological role of the claimed
The content of the claimed nutrients must meet the relevant condition of nutrient content
claim for “source”, if applicable.
For more information on the impact of Hong Kong’s nutrition labeling regulation, please see GAIN
Reports #HK7011, #HK8017 . Details of the regulation are contained in the government website on
GAIN report HK 1227 provides the latest update on the implementation of the nutrition labeling
Section III. Packaging and Container Regulations:
Hong Kong currently has no special requirements for packaging and containers.
Section IV. Food Additives Regulations:
According to Hong Kong food laws, food additives do not include vitamins and minerals used for
enriching food nutrients, nor seasoning substances like salt, herbs or spices. Food additives are not
allowed in the following circumstances:
to disguise defective raw materials like those which are bad or rotten
to enhance the color, odor and flavor or shelf-life of food but consequently leads to substantial
damage or reduction of nutrients
to simplify or facilitate food processing where the desired effect can be obtained by proper
processing practices and good hygienic standards
when the additives used are hazardous to health
Hong Kong food laws provide a list of permitted food preservatives, coloring matter and artificial
sweeteners. Details can be found in the following Regulations.
Preservatives in Food Regulations
Coloring Matter in Food Regulations
Food Adulteration (Artificial Sweeteners) Regulations;
Food Adulteration (Metallic Contamination) Regulations
Harmful Substances in Food Regulations
Food and Drugs (Composition and Labeling) Regulations – Additives in Certain Milk Products
All the food regulations can be retrieved at the government website under Cap 132.
Hong Kong amended its Preservatives Regulation, which became effective July 1, 2008. Compared to
the original regulation, there is one preservative (propyl para-hydroxybenzoate) no longer allowed for
use, and eleven additional preservatives permitted in the new standard, as listed below:
Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ)
Another change brought about by the regulation amendment is the adoption of a food category
system based on Codex’s GSFA (Codex General Standard for Food Additives) and the incorporation of
those preservatives and antioxidants, as well as their permitted levels of use, in GSFA. To help trade
better understand the amended regulation, the HKG issued a “User Guideline”, which provides the
definition of each food category of the newly adopted food category system. Also, the Guidelines
include some questions and answers pertaining to the amended regulations.
Hong Kong’s Preservatives Regulation adopts the principle of a positive list. In other words, Hong Kong
does not allow any preservatives or antioxidants in foods if they are not expressly permitted by the
Section V. Pesticides and Other Contaminants:
Pesticide Residues in Food
Hong Kong enacted its first-ever Pesticide Residues in Food Regulation in 2012. The Regulation will
enter into force on August 1, 2014, following a two-year grace period which is provided to trade to
familiarize themselves with the new Regulation. The Hong Kong government is planning to include the
July 2013 Codex MRL updates on Hong Kong’s pesticide list before implementation in 2014.
The key points of the regulatory framework are as follows:
Adopting Codex’s definition of "pesticide" and other related terms;
Adopting Codex’s classification of foods;
Adopting a list of MRLs/ EMRLs for certain pesticide –food pairs based on Codex and
supplemented by standards of China, U.S. and Thailand.
Adopting a “modified positive list approach”, i.e. in cases where pesticide residues are found
outside the list, it will be prohibited unless the food safety authority is satisfied that the level of
residue will not be dangerous to health. The authority will conduct risk assessments to draw a
Providing a list of exempted substances to allow the trade to use pesticides that are natural and
for which the residues are identical to or indistinguishable from natural food components;
Providing regular updates on the lists of MRLs/EMRLs and exempted substances;
Allowing application for revising/adding MRLs and exempted substances; and
For more details, please see GAIN report 1218, which is the latest report on this subject.
Meanwhile, the Center for Food Safety allows the presence of pesticide residues in food up to a certain
MRL. It adopts the MRL recommended by the Codex Alimentarius Commission of the WHO/FAO
(World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).
In the past years, the HKG has occasionally found U.S. produce samples collected in its regular food
surveillance containing cadmium at levels exceeding Hong Kong’s standard. U.S. exporters are
reminded that the maximum permitted level of cadmium in vegetables is 0.1 ppm. While the U.S. has
no specific regulation regarding cadmium residues in lettuce or other vegetables, the Codex standard is
Section VI. Other Regulations and Requirements:
Hong Kong’s Center for Food Safety expects U.S. exporters to produce a health certificate issued by the
Food Safety and Inspection Service for all U.S. exotic meat exports to Hong Kong. Additionally, US
exporters are advised to contact the Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain the scientific name of the
animal. If the animal is an endangered species, a C.I.T.E.S. (Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) certificate is required for the importation and
exportation of the product. In addition, the Hong Kong importer has to apply for an import license
from the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department (AFCD) before the meat
products of any endangered species can be imported into Hong Kong.
If the animal is not an endangered species, the U.S. exporter is required to obtain a certificate from the
Fish and Wildlife Service certifying the animals’ scientific name and its domesticated origin. This
certificate is necessary for the importation of all exotic meats into Hong Kong. U.S. exporters,
however, are strongly advised to enquire about the documentation requirements from the Hong Kong
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department on a case-by-case basis.
The Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, Cap. 586, is the local
legislation which gives effect to CITES in Hong Kong. The control regime follows closely the
requirements under CITES.
CITES imposes different export and import controls according to the Appendices in which a species is
listed. In general, species listed in Appendix I require an export license and an import permit, while an
export license is adequate for species listed in Appendix II. No import permit is required for species
listed in Appendix II. The licensing system covered by the ordinance is based on consignment or
keeping premises rather than on individual species.
The salient points of the Protection of Endangered Species Animals and Plants Ordinance are as
Appendix I species
1) The importation of an Appendix I species requires a license issued in advance by AFCD. Each
license is valid for one shipment at one time. Commercial trade in Appendix I species of wild
origin is not allowed and AFCD will not issue a license. Appendix I animals bred in captivity for
commercial purposes from CITES registered farms and Appendix I plants artificially propagated
for commercial purposes are treated as Appendix II specimens and therefore subject to the
same control as Appendix II specimens.
Appendix II species
2) The ordinance does not require an import license for the importation of species listed on CITES
Appendix II. (Except for live species of wild origin.) Export licenses issued by the exporting
country are still required.
3) Different from CITES requirements, the importation to Hong Kong of live species of wild origin
from CITES Appendix II is required to have an import license in addition to an export license
issued by the exporting country.
4) The commercial importation of both wild and cultivated ginseng requires an export license
issued by the exporting countries. Hong Kong traders do not need to apply for any import
licenses. However, individuals bringing in ginseng for personal use, regardless of wild or
cultivated, do not need to produce an export license issued by the exporting country or import
licenses issued by AFCD.
Appendix III listed species
5) For Appendix III listed species, the importation to Hong Kong requires to have export licenses
issued by exporting countries. The importation of an Appendix III species is required to have a
valid CITES export permit or a certificate of origin issued by the exporting country. Traders do
not need to apply for any import licenses from the Hong Kong government.
Hong Kong is a free port, imposing no duties on products with the exception of four dutiable products:
liquor, tobacco, hydrocarbon oils and methyl alcohol. In reality, these products are taxed equally as
locally manufactured goods which are subject to a domestic tax of the same rate. Local importers have
to apply for a license from the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department for the importation of
dutiable commodities. In addition, a licensed importer has to apply for a permit for each and every
consignment. The HKG increased the duty on cigarettes and cigars in 2011. The current duties are as
Cigarettes per 1000 sticks US$219 (HK$1706)
Cigars per kg US$282 (HK$2197)
Beer & liquor with less than 30 percent alcohol : 0%
Liquor with more than 30 percent alcohol : 100%
Note: Duties on wine and beer were both reduced to 0 percent effective February 27, 2008, from 40
percent and 20 percent respectively.
Starting June 6, 2008, under the amended Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, Cap. 109, Hong Kong
wine/liquor traders will no longer be required to apply for any licenses or permits for the import or
export, manufacture storage or movement of wine and liquor with an alcoholic strength of less than 30
percent by volume. No valuation of the alcoholic beverages concerned for duty purpose will be
required. However, the existing licensing/permit control on liquors with an alcoholic strength of more
than 30 percent by volume measured at a temperature of 20 degree Celsius remains unchanged.
To facilitate the customs clearance on wine and alcoholic beverages, traders are encouraged to provide
clear description in the freight/shipping documents on the type of liquor and the alcoholic strength of
the respective consignment.
Certificate of Origin
The importation of brandy and whisky to Hong Kong which are intended to be sold in Hong Kong is
required to provide a Certificate of Origin, certifying the type, nature, quality and age of the liquor. If
the brandy or whisky is to be re-exported and is not intended to be consumed in Hong Kong, the Hong
Kong government does not require any Certificate of Origin for its importation.
Brandy: the spirit obtained by the distillation of wine of grapes in the manufacture of which no
additional sugar has been added, or a mixture of such spirits, that has been aged in an oak receptacle
for at least one year or in an oak cask with a capacity of less than 1000 L for at least 6 months and
contains an alcoholic strength of not less than 36 percent by volume at 20 degree Celsius;
Cognac: brandy made in the Cognac region of France from grapes grown therein.
Whisky: the spirit obtained by distillation from a mash of cereal grains saccharified by the diastase of
malt or other natural enzyme and fermented by the action of yeast, with or without the addition of
flavoring or caramel, that has been aged in wood for at least 3 years and contains an alcoholic strength
of not less than 40 percent by volume at 20 degree Celsius.
Products Containing Living Modified Organisms
Hong Kong passed a Genetically Modified Organisms (Control of Release) Ordinance and the
Genetically Modified Organisms (Documentation for Import and Export) Regulation in March 2010 and
November 2010 respectively. With the commencement of the Ordinance and the Regulation in March
2011, there are documentation requirements for shipments containing genetically modified organisms
(GMOs). GMOs in the Ordinance are referred to as LMOs or living modified organisms. Shipments
containing GMOs for food or feed or for processing need to be accompanied by documentation
containing the following information:
If the identity of the GMO is known, the shipment contains such a GMO; if the identity of the
GMO is not known, the shipment may contain such a GMO;
The GMO is not intended for release into the environment;
The common name, scientific name and, where available, commercial name of the GMO;
The Internet address of the biosafety Clearing House;
The transformation event code of the GMO or, where available, its unique identifier code; and,
The details of the importer or exporter (such as name, address and contact information) for
There is no specific requirement regarding the form of documentation accompanying GMO
shipments. The use of a commercial invoice or other documents required by existing documentation
systems would be sufficient.
Products containing GMO ingredients for release into the environment or for contained use are
required to provide different attestations on documents. Also, importers are required to seek prior
approval from AFCD before the importation of products containing GMOs, which are intended to be
released to the environment.
Detailed requirements pertaining to the Regulation is provided at AFCD’s website.
Section VII. Other Specific Standards:
There are specific legal requirements or administrative arrangements for the import of the following
items due to their perishable or high-risk nature --
game, meat and poultry
milk and milk beverages
infant formula and food for infants and children under 36 months of age (to be enacted)
voluntary code of practice for infant formula and related products
For samples of health certificates, exporters may read GAIN Report #1234.
Game, Meat and Poultry
The importation of frozen or chilled beef, mutton and pork, and poultry is subject to import licensing
control. The Center for Food Safety of Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) is
responsible for issuing import licenses for these foods.
The Imported Game, Meat and Poultry Regulations require meat or poultry to be imported to Hong
Kong with an official certificate issued by a competent authority recognized by the FEHD. The
Department recognizes the United Sates Department of Agriculture as a competent authority.
However, the importation of ground meats and chilled meats from all supplying countries including the
U.S. requires the importer to obtain a permit in advance.
Hong Kong suspended beef imports from the U.S. following the BSE case in December 2003. The
market opened again for U.S. boneless beef effective December 29, 2005. Products now allowed
include boneless beef from cattle less than 30 months of age slaughtered and processed in
establishments which have been certified by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) that they
have complied with USDA Export Verification (EV) Program for Hong Kong. A listing of the Hong Kong
EV Program certified plants is available at the Agricultural Marketing Service website. Hong Kong
traders importing U.S. beef are required to obtain a permit in advance.
Following the OIE’s designation of controlled risk BSE status for the U.S. in May 2007, the U.S.
government requests the HKG to have full access of U.S. beef products to Hong Kong according to OIE
The Milk Regulation requires any fluid milk or milk beverage (including cream) to be imported into
Hong Kong from a source of manufacture that has been approved by the Director of Food and
Environmental Hygiene. Assistant Director of the Center for Food Safety exercises the authority on
behalf of the Director of FEHD to make the approval. Before importing these food products into Hong
Kong, importers need to apply to the Assistant Director in writing and provide the following
the full name and address of the milk or milk beverage processing plant;
the law of the country of origin governing the production of milk or milk beverages;
empty containers of the milk or milk beverage with labels;
information on the heat treatment method of the milk or milk beverage and facilities, including
production equipment and water supply, in the processing plant;
a certificate from an appropriate authority in the country of origin for the purpose of --
1. certifying the effectiveness and efficiency of the heat treatment method in pasteurizing
or sterilizing the milk or milk beverage and that the products have been handled,
processed and packed under hygienic conditions
2. showing the chemical and bacteriological quality of the products; and
a statement from the manufacturer confirming the approximate shelf-life of the products.
After obtaining the approval and satisfying other conditions which may be imposed by the Assistant
Director of the Center for Food Safety, importers may import the milk or milk (beverages) products
into Hong Kong. Initially, an import permit is valid for six months, after four renewals, an import
permit valid for one year may be issued. When a milk or milk beverage consignment arrives before its
release, products will be inspected and if necessary, sampled by the Center for Food Safety. Upon the
Center’s satisfaction, a “release” letter will be issued to the local importer. Each milk shipment has to
be accompanied by health certificates.
Hong Kong’s milk regulation allows two types of milk registration: pasteurized and sterilized milk. In
2007, a U.S. ultra pasteurized milk successfully registered as pasteurized milk with the HKG.
The Frozen Confections Regulation requires any frozen confection to be imported into Hong Kong from
a source of manufacture approved by the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene. Assistant
Director of the Center for Food Safety exercises the authority on behalf of the Director of FEHD to
make the approval. Before importing these food products into Hong Kong, importers need to apply to
the Assistant Director in writing and provide the following information:
the full name and address of the frozen confection processing plant;
the law of the country of origin governing the production of frozen confections;
empty containers or wrappers of the frozen confection with labels;
information on the heat treatment method of the frozen confection and facilities, including
production equipment and water supply, in the processing plant;
a certificate from an appropriate authority in the country of origin for the purpose of :
1. certifying the effectiveness and efficiency of the heat treatment method in sterilizing
the frozen - confection and that the products have been handled, processed and packed
under hygienic conditions
2. showing the chemical and bacteriological quality of the products; and
details of ingredients, including coloring matter, stabilizers , sweetening agents, etc., and their
amount in the frozen confection.
After obtaining the approval and satisfying other conditions, which may be imposed by the Assistant
Director of the Center for Food Safety, importers may import the frozen confections into Hong Kong.
Initially, an import permit is valid for six months, after four renewals, an import permit valid for one
year may be issued. When a frozen confection consignment arrives and before its release, the
products will be inspected and if necessary, sampled by the Center. Upon the satisfaction of the
Department, a “release” letter will be issued to the importer. Each frozen confection shipment has to
be accompanied by health certificates.
The Hong Kong government will make it mandatory to have health certificates accompanying seafood
imports to Hong Kong through a new subsidiary regulation under the Food Safety Ordinance, which
was passed in 2011. All U.S. fish and aquatic products are expected to be affected by this new measure
once the subsidiary regulation on seafood certification is enacted, but no legislative timeframe has
been announced. (For details of the proposed seafood certification, please see the latest GAIN Report
on this subject #HK1141.)
Presently, it is not a mandatory requirement for all seafood products to be accompanied with a health
certificate, but U.S. products to Hong Kong usually provide health certificates in order to facilitate
customs clearance. However, the certificates submitted do not have a standard attestation and could
be issued by individual state, since the HKG has not officially requested any health certification
requirements for U.S. seafood products.
When a consignment of seafood products arrives at entry points in Hong Kong, it may be subject to
inspection or sampling. If the importer concerned is not able to present health certificates during
inspection, the Center of Food Safety may take consignment samples for examination before release.
With respect to the future subsidiary regulation, we believe that the HKG will require a certificate with
standard attestations. In response to the HKG’s proposed certification requirements for seafood
products, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has prepared a draft
certificate which ATO has submitted to the HKG for consideration. Discussion on the certification
protocol continues. The Hong Kong government has not announced any timeframe for the enactment
of the new regulation.
The importation of plants to Hong Kong is subject to the Plant (Importation and Pest Control)
Ordinance, Cap. 207. Any plant imported into Hong Kong must be accompanied by a Plant Import
License issued by the Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department and a valid Phytosanitary
Certificate issued by the competent authority in the country of its origin.
No Plant Import License or Phytosanitary Certificate will be required for import of the following items:
Fruit & vegetables for consumption
Grains, pulses, seeds and spices for human or animal consumption or for industrial use
Timber and timber products including rattan and bamboo
Dried tobacco and manufactured articles incorporating dried leaves
Plants produced in and imported from China
In order to avoid unnecessary delay in customs clearance of plants on arrival, U.S. exporters are
advised to ask their Hong Kong importers to obtain a Plant Import License from the Hong Kong
Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department prior to shipment of plants. If application is found
to be in order, a Plant Import License will normally be issued after two working days from receipt of
The relevant legislation covering the importation of live animals is as follows:
Public Health (Animals and Birds) Ordinance and Subsidiary Legislation, Cap. 139 [Particularly
the Public Health (Animals and Birds) Regulations]
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, Cap.169
Rabies Ordinance, Cap. 421
Animals and Plants (Protection of Endangered Species) Ordinance, Cap. 187 (soon to be
replaced by the Protection of Endangered Animals and Plants Ordinance
Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance and Subsidiary Legislation, Cap.132
Requirement for a Permit in Advance
Importation of live animals and birds is regulated under the Public Health (Animals and Birds)
Regulations, Cap. 139 and the Rabies Ordinance, Cap. 421. Importers must apply for a permit well in
advance from the Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department before importation. The importer
must be a locally based person or a company incorporated in Hong Kong who shall be answerable to
the laws of Hong Kong and shall take every precautionary measure to ensure that all permit terms are
fully complied with. The permit is valid for three months and good for one consignment. In addition to
import permits, a valid veterinary health certificate issued by the competent veterinary authority of
the exporting country must accompany animals and birds imported to Hong Kong.
Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department is the regulatory department. Its website
provides import requirements for animals and birds, including dogs, cats, breeding pigs, horses, birds,
poultry, reptiles, etc.
Health and Organic Foods
In Hong Kong health and organic foods are subject to the same piece of food ordinance as conventional
foods. Retailers are expected to provide truthful labeling as regulated by Chapter 132 Section 61 –
False Labeling and Advertisement of Food or Drugs.
Health foods should not include medicinal ingredients, or they may be regarded as pharmaceutical
products. Pharmaceutical products are subject to registration under the Health Department and are
regulated by the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance. On the other hand, Chinese medicine, some may
be regarded as health food, is subject to the Chinese Medicine Ordinance. The Undesirable Medical
Advertisements Ordinance (chapter 231) prohibits advertisements claiming that a product has curative
or preventive effects on any of the diseases listed in the schedule to the Ordinance.
While the Hong Kong Organic Center provides organic certification for local produce, Hong Kong does
not have a law regulating organic food products. U.S. organic products can be sold in Hong Kong with
the USDA organic logo.
Eggs – Proposed Legislation to Regulate Import of Poultry Eggs
The HKG has procrastinated the introduction of a subsidiary regulation which requires mandatory
certification requirements for eggs. The subsidiary regulation was initially scheduled to be enacted in
2012 under the Food Safety Ordinance. There is no further indication when the regulation will be
introduced to the Legislative Council. The scope of poultry eggs to be kept under legislative control
would include raw eggs, preserved eggs, partly cooked eggs and egg yolk. In 2008, the U.S.
government concluded a certificate protocol for egg exports with the HKG. Once the regulation is
enacted, U.S. egg exports to Hong Kong will need to be accompanied by a health certificate issued by
AMS (Agricultural Marketing Service). Meanwhile, U.S. exporters provide health certificates for egg
consignments on a voluntary basis.
Legislative Proposal on Infant Formula and Food Products
The Hong Kong government (HKG) plans to introduce and enact a legislative regulation in 2013 on the
labeling and nutrition requirements for formula and food products for infants and young children
under 36 months of age. (The current nutrition labeling regulation does not cover infant formula and
food for children under 36 months of age.) The regulation will not have any provisions regulating
manufacturers’’ claims. The HKG indicated that the proposed regulation is based on Codex principles
and international practices in order not to impede trade, as most formula products and foods intended
for infants and young children in Hong Kong are imported from overseas. The regulation will be
provided with a grace period which has yet to be determined.
The proposed regulation covers four key areas:
Codex requirement on nutritional composition ( i.e. energy and 33 nutrients as specified by
Codex) for infant formula before complementary feeding is introduced and the level of energy
and each nutrient must fall within the range specified by Codex;
Nutrition labeling requirement for infant formula by listing energy and the 33 nutrients
specified by Codex;
Nutrition labeling requirement for follow-up formula intended for infants and young children
under the age of 36 months by listing energy and the 25 nutrients specified by Codex;
Nutrition labeling requirement for foods intended for infants and young children under the age
of 36 months by listing energy and nutrients required for such foods as specified by Codex.
In short, the legislative proposal focuses on the regulation of the nutrition composition and labeling of
infant formula. For follow-up formula and foods intended for infants and young children under 36
months of age, the proposed regulation only stipulates labeling but not nutrition requirements.
Details of the proposed regulation can be retrieved from GAIN report HK1231 and the legislative
proposal website of the Hong Kong Food Safety Center.
Voluntary Code of Practice for Infant Formula, Baby Food and Related Products
The Hong Kong government (HKG) has released a draft a Hong Kong Code of Marketing and Quality of
Formula Milk and Related Products, and Food Products for Infants and Young Children in late
November 2012 and plans to have it finalized and implemented by the end of 2013. The Code aims to
safeguard breastfeeding and ensure adequate nutrition for infants and young children. It was based
on the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (WHO, 1981) and the relevant
subsequent World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions. However, the Code expands its scope by not
only covering the marketing of breastmilk substitutes but also the labeling and quality standards of
formula milk and food products for infants and young children.
The draft Hong Kong Code of Marketing and Quality of Formula Milk and Related Products, and Food
Products for Infants & Young Children includes 10 articles covering marketing, labeling and quality of
formula and food products for infants and young children between 0-36 months as well as feeding
bottles, teats and pacifiers.
In the areas of marketing and promotion:
The Code advises manufacturers and distributors (M&Ds) not to launch any education and
information dissemination activities for breastfeeding and formula milk feeding and nutrition.
Information can be provided on websites or sent to enquirers upon request. (This article also
restricts education on breastfeeding because studies indicated that breastfeeding will last
longer when mothers have not received any breastfeeding education provided by traders of
The Code advises M&Ds not to launch any promotional activities for formula milk, feeding
bottles, teats and pacifiers.
Public promotion such as advertising and sample distribution of food products for infants and
young children is allowed but not in health care facilities.
In the area of labeling:
The Code does not allow health and nutrition claims for infant formula.
The Code allows health claims but not nutrition claims for follow-up formula.
The Code allows health claims and nutrition claims on four nutrient groups, namely sugars,
sodium, vitamins and minerals, for infant and young children foods. Health claims have to
follow Codex requirements or adhere to those which have been approved by
More details of the voluntary code are available at GAIN report HK1228. The Hong Kong Code and a
summary cannot be retrieved from the Hong Kong government website.
Section VIII. Copyright and/or Trademark Laws:
The Intellectual Property Department is the government department established with the
responsibility to protect intellectual property in Hong Kong. It provides trade mark, patent, and
designs registration. The Trade Marks Ordinance stipulates the registration procedure of trademarks
and the range of signs that can be registered as marks. Also the ordinance allows parallel imports
except when "the condition of the goods has been changed or impaired after they have been put on
the market, and the use of the registered trade mark in relation to those goods is detrimental to the
distinctive character or repute of the trade mark".
The government has introduced an online trademarks search facility on January 30, 2003. The system
contains all registered trademarks and trademark applications in force on the Hong Kong Register of
Trade Marks. The search facility is free.
Section IX. Import Procedures:
The Center for Food Safety of FEHD requires importers to provide an official health certificate for the
importation of meat products, frozen confection and dairy products. When a consignment arrives and
before its release, the products will be inspected and if necessary sampled. Upon the satisfaction of
the Department, a “release” letter will be issued to the importer.
Appendix I. Government Regulatory Agency Contacts:
Department to implement food safety control policy
The Center for Food Safety
Food & Environmental Hygiene Department
43/F., Queensway Govt Offices
Web site: http://www.fehd.gov.hk
Department to control the importation of plants & live animals
Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department
5-8/F., Cheung Sha Wan Govt Offices
303, Cheung Sha Wan Rd
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Web site: http://www.info.gov.hk/afcd
Department to register health foods containing medicinal ingredients
Department of Health
Import & Export Control Section
18th Floor, Wu Chung House
213 Queen’s Road East, Wanchai
Tel : 852-2961-8754
Fax : 852-2834-5117
Web site : http://www.info.gov.hk/dh/index.htm
Department to issue licenses for imported dutiable commodities
Hong Kong Customs & Excise Department
Office of Dutiable Commodities Administration
6-9th floors, Harbor Building
38 Pier Road
Web site: http://www.info.gov.hk/customs
Email : email@example.com
Department for Trade Mark Registration
Intellectual Property Department
Trade Marks Registry
24th and 25th Floors, Wu Chung House
213 Queen’s Road East
Tel : 852-2803-5860
Fax : 852-2838-6082
Web site : http://www.info.gov.hk/ipd/eng/index.htm
World Trade Organization (WTO) Enquiry Point
Trade & Industry Department
Regional Cooperation Division
18/F., Trade Department Tower
700 Nathan Road
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Web site: http://www.info.gov.hk/tid
Appendix II. Other Import Specialist Contacts:
Agricultural Trade Office
American Consulate General
18th Floor, St. John’s Building
33 Garden Road, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2841-2350
Fax: (852) 2845-0943
Internet Homepage : http://www.usconsulate.org.hk