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Labeling compliance is the number one issue that CIQ deals with when goods arrive at Chinese harbors and airports.
Foreign exporters could save plenty of time and money if they complied with local regulations from the start.
However, with the scarce information available online, it can be hard to find reliable information and professionals that help with label registrations in China.
In this article, we review the following topics:
- Overview of Labeling Requirements in China
- GB Standards for Labeling
- Labeling of Food Products and Beverages
- How can I register my Chinese labels?
- Documents Needed to Register Chinese Labels
- CIQ Inspections of Labels
- Do I need to translate my labels to Chinese?
- What happens if my labels don’t comply with local regulations?
Overview of Labeling Requirements in China
Before we start, I want to share some commonly asked questions among exporters:
- How China sets standards for product labeling
- What labeling standards that apply to your products
- Who manages the registration and approval of labels
- How you can prove that you comply with the standards
First of all, there are general national regulations issued by AQSIQ, MOFCOM and other authorities, often referred to as “announcements” or “decrees”.
These are issued to protect the rights and interests of consumers, uses of additives, labeling, product quality, just to mention a few.
You’ll also find many GB-standards, issued by SAC (Standardization Administration of China) but managed by AQSIQ (The General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine).
Shortly speaking, GB stands for Guobiao (国标) which translates to ‘national standards’ in Chinese. Not only are these standards used for labeling, but guidelines for lab testing, packaging, product safety, and more.
In comparison to the West, GB standards are similar to ISO standards, in fact, many of them have derived from the ISO standards we use.
GB Standards for Labeling
As mentioned, GB-standards differ depending on what products you want to export.
While some GB-standards explain how a wine bottle should be labeled, with requirements to show the alcohol content for example, there’s a specific GB standard for the labeling of cosmetic products, with a requirement to include usage instructions.
You can normally find GB-standards by using service providers online, search in directories on AQSIQ’s website, seek help from your Chinese importer, or consulting with a company that specializes in helping foreigners with exports to China.
Labeling of Food Products and Beverages
Beverages and food products are imported in high volumes and many people ask how to label these products.
Many distribution management companies primarily manage these kinds of products as well, a reason why we focus on the products in the article.
Below you can find different GB standards used for food products exported to China.
Common GB-standards for labeling of food products:
GB 7718 2011
General Rules for the Labeling of Prepackaged Foods
GB 7718 2004
General Standard for the Labeling of prepackaged food
GB 13432 2013
General rules for the labeling of prepackaged food for special dietary use
National Food Safety Standards for General Rules for Nutrition Labeling of Prepackaged Food
Common GB-standards for labeling of wine and beer:
Labeling guidelines for prepackaged beverage
General Standard for the labeling of prepackaged foods
General Standard for the labeling of prepackaged alcoholic beverages
General national regulations for wine and beverages:
AQSIQ’s Order 27 of 2012
Issued for labeling of prepackaged food and wine
AQSIQ’s Announcement 59 (2011)
Used for label registration of products that are imported for the first time
AQSIQ’s Announcement No. 44 (2006)
Adjustment of Import / Export Food and Cosmetic Label Examination System: Removes separate and preliminary examinations of labels for imported and exported food, including wine. Instead, the approval will be done during CIQ’s inspection when the goods arrive at the port.
For more details regarding CIQ labels and CIQ stickers needed for cosmetic products, I recommend you to read my separate article.
How can I register my Chinese labels?
First of all, you need to register your company with AQSIQ. This is one of the first steps to be handled in the exporting process. When the registration has been approved, you’ll receive a valid registration number for your company.
You should thereafter register your label, both in Chinese and English, and provide other related documents to CIQ. When the label has been reviewed and approved, you’ll obtain a filing number of the products that you can export.
Documents Needed to Register Chinese Labels
The following documents should normally be submitted:
a. Original version of the label in Chinese (paper version)
b. A digital version of the label (can be obtained after online registration at AQSIQ)
c. A copy of the original label in English
Keep in mind that other documents might be requested, for example, a list showing the ingredients (if not stated on the label). In case you want to highlight that your product has won any awards, you need to provide certifications proving so.
CIQ Inspections of Labels
CIQ works directly under AQSIQ and is responsible to handle inspections of goods that arrive at harbors and airports. Items that will be checked during the inspection include:
- The labeling of your products
- Visual checks of the products
As informed at the beginning of the article, non-compliance with the correct labeling is the problem that CIQ deals mostly with, therefore, it’s important that you try doing it right.
You can attach your labels to the products at two different stages, either before you ship them to China, or when the products arrive in China.
If you decide to go for the latter option, CIQ will keep your goods in a supervised warehouse close to the harbor or airport, waiting for your importer (or another person) to attach the labels, before customs clearance.
Attaching the labels before shipment is the preferable choice to avoid any issues with CIQ personnel. Keep in mind that different harbors sometimes have different procedures, the results might also vary depending on what CIQ personnel you end up dealing with.
Do I need to translate my labels to Chinese?
Yes, as mentioned above you need to translate the labels into Chinese, this is mandatory before you can start selling in the Chinese market.
Keep in mind that this regulation is valid if you import the products with the help of a distributor, for example, and sell them in a local store.
If you sell the products cross-border online, on the other hand, Chinese labeling is generally not required. Thanks to the reduced requirements in terms of product compliance and registrations, many exporters choose to sell cross-border instead.
What happens if my labels don’t comply with local regulations?
If your label doesn’t comply with local requirements, you won’t be able to manage the customs clearance. This can be time-consuming and cost some, as your products can’t reach your end customers.
Some companies have to resolve this issue by hiring a third party, helping them with re-labeling to manage customs clearance.
Before you start exporting to China, confirm whether your products need Chinese labeling or not, and prepare the labels beforehand if needed.
What is GB 7718-2011?
GB 7718-2011 is, as explained above, the general standard for the labeling of prepackaged foods. As prepackaged food is imported in vast numbers, many foreigners try to find more information about the GB standard online.
Information covered in the labeling standard includes requirements of imported prepackaged food such as character requirements, ingredient list requirements, production date, shelf life, origin countries/regions, and more.
Besides, allergen labeling is now a mandatory labeling requirement for all prepackaged food products sold in China.
Imported foods must have clear markings that indicate the country of origin and the name and address of the general distributor registered in the country.
Labeling Information for Pre-Packaged Food
Labels used for pre-packaged food have to include the following information:
- Name, specification, net content, and date of production
- Table of ingredients / formulation
- The producer’s name, address, and contact information
- Shelf life
- Codes of product standards
- Storage requirements
- Generic name of the food additives as shown in the national standard
- Production License Number
- Other information must be indicated in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and food safety standards
Bear in mind that this is general information only and you should confirm the exact information to be included with a credible partner.
You must confirm whether Chinese labels are needed and label your products correctly before exporting to China. In fact, the biggest issue that CIQ deals with is foreign products that don’t comply with Chinese labeling regulations.
First of all, you need to register your company with AQSIQ. After, you need to prepare the label, in both English (original version) and Chinese, for review and approval by CIQ.
A common way to get help with the preparation of labels is to hire a third party, a company that specializes in helping foreigners export to China.
There are a number of national regulations and GB standards that apply to label, be sure that you comply with the ones valid for your products.
If you have any other questions that we haven’t covered above, feel free to write a message in the comment field below or send us a message.