• China Allows Transitional Period for Unlisted Food Contact Substances but Questions Remain
  • September 17, 2009
  • Law Firm: Keller and Heckman LLP - Washington Office
  • A June 5 announcement by the People's Republic of China's Ministry of Health (MOH) and other agencies concerning a transitional period for food contact materials not listed in the country's Hygienic Standard for Uses of Additives in Food Containers and Packaging Materials (GB 9685-2008) clarified that enforcement actions will not be taken against these materials until at least June1, 2010, provided that they are not "toxic or harmful." However, other questions remain. The transition period is needed since procedures for obtaining approval of new food contact substances have not yet been finalized even though the law took effect on June 1, 2009. (See the PackagingLaw.com article, China Proposes New Approval Process for Food Contact Materials, for more information.)

    One of the questions that remains is whether new substances will be approved via an administrative procedure and listing, or if new approvals will be in the form of new national standards. A spokesperson for MOH has indicated that the procedures for approval of new food contact substances will not be finalized until this is determined.

    The June 5 announcement also indicated that during the first few months of the transitional period, industry would be expected to conduct a "self-examination" and provide MOH an inventory of non-listed substances currently in use in China. The two-to-three month period previously indicated for this "self-reporting" has passed without further announcement, and we have been informed that the time for making additional submissions will remain open until a time is fixed based on anticipated clarifying information from MOH. After the "self-reporting," MOH would then determine if those substances would be added to GB 9685 through a "grandfathering" procedure. At this point, the criteria for grandfathering is not clear. It is possible that only reporting use of the substances and their clearance status in the U.S., European Union, or Japan may be required; however, additional data and an abbreviated application for approval may also be required.