China has released new rules for infant formula milk powder, one of the most-discussed products after massive domestic scandals and waves of foreign imports, both legally and illegally. Shanghai-based lawyer Mark Schaub discusses at Lexology the impact, as domestic and foreign formulas are now treated equally, and it is going to be more complicated.
The registration procedures for infant formula outlined by the Registration Measures were based upon the PRC drug management system and accordingly the registration procedures for infant formula are complicated and time-consuming.
The registration procedure for infant formula has several stages, namely acceptance, review and evaluation, on-site verification, sampling inspection, determination and issuance of decision.
In addition it should be noted that each stage has a time limit and these time limits can be complicated to determine. At most the procedure will take 170 working days to finish registration commencing from acceptance until issuance. This period does not include collection of supplementary documents required by the CFDA.
However, it should be noted that the Registration Measures do not provide clear guidance as to how to proceed with on-site verification and sampling inspections for imported formula products and verification periods.
The Registration Measures provide detailed provisions aimed at avoiding false advertising and causing confusion amongst consumers in respect of the products including:
- Prohibited to use ambiguous terms such as “imported milk source”, “ecologic pasture”, “imported raw materials”. The applicant is required to clearly identify the source of the product;
- Prohibited from explicitly or implicitly expressing that there is a health care function;
- Prohibited from including functional expressions, implicitly or explicitly, that the products may increase intelligence, build up resistance, increase immunity or protect the intestine;
- Prohibited from using misleading or negative expression(s) (i.e. “no additives”);
As the Registration Measures would become effective on October 1, 2016, as such, unless the laws stipulated otherwise, the infant formula milk powder manufactured in and imported to China via the trade in goods would subject to this Registration Measures sooner.
It is important to note the complexity and time limits in respect of registration it is recommended that both domestic or foreign manufacturing enterprises engaging in production of infant formula milk powder to start preparing for and initiating registration procedures as quickly as possible.
Time is ticking – it should be noted that PRC Ministry of Finance regulations require that registration requirements for infant formula will come into force on January 1, 2018. Accordingly, although there is still time for companies to register but the clock is ticking. Brands relying strongly upon the cross-border ecommerce channel should start registration preparations immediately. It is likely that supervisory requirements and procedures for formula products which have not been imported to China via general trade will become more complex and subject to more scrutiny.
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