China Continues to Revise the Food Labeling Standard

On November 21, 2023, the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA) held an event[1] concerning digital labels for prepackaged foods. During the event, CFSA indicated that it is currently revising GB 7718-2011 – General Standard for the Labeling of Prepackaged Foods[2] by incorporating requirements for digital labels.

Compared with the traditional way of printing product labels on foods, digital labels refer to the display of food labeling information through QR codes or other similar methods, which allow consumers to use mobile devices to scan the codes and obtain food information. Given that digital labels have no layout restrictions, food enterprises may include additional product information by using this method. Such exemption may be especially beneficial for small packaged foods, given the limited labeling space. Notably, digital labels will not replace the physical label, and only certain mandatory labeling items may be exempted from the mandatory declaration on the physical label if such information is provided through digital labels[3]. 

In addition to the upcoming changes regarding digital labeling, China has proposed more modifications to GB 7718 compared to the latest draft version circulated for comments back in December 2019 (details of the 2019 draft can be found in our CRM – Are You Ready for China’s New Food Labeling Requirements?)[4]. Notably, China considered requiring that all labeling information, in both foreign languages and traditional Chinese characters, must align with Chinese laws, regulations, and food safety standards, and there should be a one-to-one correspondence between foreign languages and Chinese characters. Depending on how this will be finalized and interpreted, this may become an issue for imported foods because it is not in line with current practices where only the mandatory labeling information required by China, if declared in a foreign language, needs to have the corresponding Chinese.

China also proposed to further regulate food claims by classifying them into general claims, nutrition claims and claims concerning the effect of nutrients, claims concerning the health effects of food ingredients, and health function claims[5]. For the first time, China introduced the concept of “claims concerning the health effects of food ingredients,” indicating the possibility of making claims based on the functional attributes of food ingredients. Further, more details are provided for general claims, covering conditional claims (e.g., “natural,” “pure”), comparative claims, etc. For instance, conditions to declare a “natural” claim on the product label are expected to be clarified, e.g., the production process should not cause any chemical changes to the ingredients if “natural” is used to describe the processing methods of foods.

It is worth highlighting that these proposed modifications are still under discussion; however, we are reporting on these changes to provide interested parties with a sense of what we may expect in the near future. Per usual, we anticipate there will be a public comment period once the draft is ready. We will continue to monitor and share updates accordingly. (Source: Keller and Heckman LLP)



[3] For example, if food manufacturers’ addresses and contact information are presented on the digital label, they may be exempt from being declared on physical labels. By comparison, certain mandatory labeling items, such as the product name, ingredient list, etc., must be declared on physical labels, regardless of whether they are already indicated on the digital label.


[5] In China, foods that are claimed to have certain specific health functions are regulated as health foods, subject to different regulatory requirements (e.g., preapproval from the authority is required) compared with conventional foods.

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