CIQ & Food Packaging Labels in China: A Complete Guide

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It’s always challenging, but exciting to take on a new market when exporting products.

Questions you might ask yourself are: How should I market the products, how should I price the products and what packaging should I use?

An equally important question is: What quality regulations do I need to comply with?

In fact, Chinese inspection authorities has stated that noncompliant labels is one of the biggest reasons for filing noncompliance reports.

The main duties of CIQ

CIQ operates at the Chinese harbors and airports, controlling packaging and labelig of goods that’s both leaving or entering the country.

It’s the authority that can reject your products from being imported into China. Therefore, you should confirm whether your products need CIQ labels, before you start exporting into China.

In this article, I explain the details you need to know about CIQ stickers & food packaging labels required when exporting into China.

What is a CIQ label?

CIQ stands for China Inspection and Quarantine and is the authority who controls the inflow and outflow of products from China. They are responsible to manage the initial inspection of your products before the customs clearance, for example.

Since 2007, CIQ labels are required for food, plant and animal products that are imported into China. Keep in mind that if you fail to meet the local regulations applied in China, your goods can be seized or in worst case demolished by the customs.

In this article, I won’t only talk about the general CIQ sticker (the small circular sticker/label that’s usually attached to products).

I will also talk about CIQ labels for food products, these are rectangular and bigger labels that show more detailed information about the food products you export.

ciq-labels-food-china

Which products require CIQ labels?

CIQ labels have been required for animal, plants and food products, among others, since 2007. The labels were also required for cosmetics until March 2012.

Notice that a CIQ certificate is still needed for cosmetics.

Some examples of products that need CIQ labels are: grains, vegetable oil, dairy products, candy, drinks and beverages, aquatic products, livestock and poultry products.

So: if you’re an exporter of food or beverages, you’ll need to mark both your product packaging and the transportation packaging with CIQ labels.

How does a CIQ sticker look like?

It’s important to beware that CIQ issues both a sticker (showing the CIQ logo) and food labels.

The sticker has 4 different sizes: 10mm, 20 mm, 30 mm and 50mm. The smaller sizes are used for the product packaging, whilst the larger ones are used for the transportation packaging.

You’ll notice that the color of the sticker can differ. Often, the background is white, but can also be silver. The text is blue, in fact, C100 M40 K15 is the specific blue color used for the mark.

How does a CIQ label look like for food products?

When I lived in China, I often went to a supermarket called Olé, that only import food products from overseas.

I noticed that the labels attached to bottles and cans were pretty big, differentiating from those in Europe.

Compared to the CIQ sticker, which only shows that you comply with CIQ, the label is often made of paper, rectangular and attached to the product.

Sometimes, covering the complete, or parts of, the original description in English on the product (as exporters don’t want to cover the logo of their products, they prefer attaching the Chinese label to the backside).

What information should be included on the label for food products?

In general, the following information should be included on food labels:

a. Name of the product (including your trademark)

b. Ingredients

c. Net weight and solid content

d. Contact information to the manufacturer (name, address and telephone number)

e. Production date (year/month/date) and information how to store the product (including temperatures and exposure to light)

f. Packer and distributor (name and address)

g. Batch number

h. Country of origin

i. Quality guarantee and storage period (year/month/date)

j. Instructions how to use the product

Here’s an example of a CIQ label attached to a wine bottle.

Be sure to confirm the information that your specific food product need to have.

Can I get exemptions from using CIQ labels for food products?

You cannot get exemptions from using the CIQ labels for food products. However, you can exclude details about the shelf life for the following products:

  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Alcoholic drinks that have 10% alcohol or more
  • Solid sugar
  • Monosodium glutamate

If your product packaging is smaller than 10cm2, you only need to include the following on the label:

  • The name of the product
  • Quantity
  • The address of the manufacturer

How much does it cost to get CIQ labels?

The cost to receive CIQ labels depends on the value of your goods.

But the cost is negligible compared to all the other investments you make when exporting to China.

The fee is around RMB 1000 – 2000 (USD 150 – 300).

How long time does it take to get the CIQ labels?

The general lead time is 5-10 days for Chinese business owners.

If you’re a foreigner, I would double that time to get a realistic timeframe and so that you can plan well in advance (bear in mind that the shipping time takes longer if you live in Europe or the US for example).

When do I need to attach the CIQ labels?

You need to attach labels to your products, and to the packaging, after you’ve received approval from CIQ and preferably before you ship your products into China.

However, this is not a requirement and your products can be stored in a supervised warehouse, waiting for a local Chinese importer or agent to label the products on your behalf.

Keep in mind that if your products aren’t marked when arriving at a Chinese harbor or airport, you’ll not be able to get your products through the customs.

Do I need to translate my CIQ label into Chinese?

Yes, you need to translate the label into Chinese as well. The following information should be included on the Chinese label:

  • Product name
  • Country or region of origin
  • Name and address of distributor
  • Contents
  • Date
  • Necessary safety warnings
  • Instructions for use

Usually, an agent or professional consultant can help you to translate the labels, as they have contact with translators.

How do I know if a CIQ sticker is real or fake?

You can check whether a mark is fake in the two following ways:

a. If you remove the sticker, there should be a serial number with 16 digits on the backside. Keep in mind that older stickers have fewer digits. A missing serial number is a clear indication that the mark is fake

b. If the serial number is a random number and can’t be tracked the CIQ system

Preferably, you should contact an experienced third party that can help you to confirm whether your mark is real or not.

If you want to check if your CIQ serial number is correct, you can visit China Customs Law Firm online, or contact them in person.

Conclusion

CIQ stands for China Inspection and Quarantine and operates directly under AQSIQ, which is the major governing quality authority in China.

Some products, including food products, need CIQ labels and CIQ stickers before these are imported into China.

You can receive CIQ labels once you received a CIQ certificate, the labels (or stickers) should be attached to both the product packaging and the transportation packaging.

A CIQ sticker should have a 16 digit serial number (older labels have fewer digits). If you want to confirm whether a product has a real CIQ label or not, you should check if there’s a serial number on the backside of the label, the serial number should also be registered in CIQ’s system.

If your products don’t comply with local regulations in China, you’ll risk that your products get seized or even demolished, these are costly and time consuming issues that every exporter wants to avoid.

Therefore, it’s very important that you follow the local label requirements.

I hope you found this article interesting and highly recommend that you read my complete guide about CIQ, to learn more.

How can you help me take the next step?

Do you need help with CIQ, CCC or setting up your first Tmall store? We work with leading consultants and service providers – that can help you through every part of the process:

a. CIQ, CCC, labeling and laboratory testing

b. Shipping and customs

c. Selling on Tmall, JD Worldwide & other platforms

d. Finding retailers and distributors for your products

What are you waiting for? Click here to request a free quotation.

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