12 Significant Changes of China Health Food Regulation System

Chinese food industry has been undergoing a regulatory reform in recent years. On 28 July 2015, three new drafts on Chinese health food regulatory system were released by China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), namely "Administrative Measures on Health Food Registration and Filing (Draft)", "Administrative Measures on Health Food Function Directory and Food Raw Material Directory (Draft)" and "Administrative Measures on the labeling of Health Food (Draft)". With a view to assisting health food enterprises in entering Chinese market more smoothly, the articles in the draft regulations are researched in depth by CIRS food team. The interpretations for 12 significant changes of the reform are presented as following:

1. "Notification system" is included in health food management system

Health food notification is unprecedented in China, the new legislation stipulates that certain kinds of health food could be notified and others still required to be registered before selling in China. The notification system is developed with the goal of simplifying the procedures of administrative examination; from another point of view, it may lead manufacturers to producing similar health food products because of the restrictive food raw materials.  Therefore, based on their own production scale and characteristics, dietary supplement enterprises are suggested to produce the products of which the food raw materials are in the Food Raw Material Directory or develop creative products of which raw materials are not listed in the Food Raw Material Directory. 

Table 1: The Scope of Registration and Notification

Registration

 The dietary supplement of which raw materials are not listed in the Food Raw Material Directory.

The dietary supplement which is imported to China for the first time.

Notification

The dietary supplement of which raw materials are listed in the Food Raw Material Directory.

The dietary supplement which is imported to China for the first time and its functions are regarded as nutriment supplementation, like vitamins and minerals.

Dietary supplement which is already notified but has information changed needs to be re-notified.

2. The changes of the definition of "health food"

As same as the elder version of legislation, there are two styles of health foods: I. the dietary supplements claiming functions. II. The health food supplying vitamins, minerals or other nutriments but not declaring functions, herein these health foods are named "nutriment supplements".

However, slight changes appeared in the new legislation. I. "specific" is deleted before "function" in the new regulation, as health food enterprises are encouraged to apply new healthy functions with the purpose of developing innovative products. II. "And other nutriments" is added after "vitamins and minerals", thus the food raw materials of nutriment supplements are no longer limited to vitamins and minerals but including other nutriments such as amino acids, fatty acids etc. The directory of vitamins, minerals and other nutriments in the Health Food Raw Material Directory is expected to be published in follow-up new food regulations before 1st October, 2015.

3. The changes of the required qualification of the applicant

Table 2 The changes of the required qualification of the health food applicant

Applicant of domestic health food registration

I. Private citizen is not allowed to apply as the applicant.

II. Even the product is developed by several organizations, applying together is forbidden and only one organization can acts as applicant.

Applicant of domestic health food filing

I. The production certificate is mandatory for the applicant, thus, if distributes or research institutes without the production certificate would like to obtain the health food certificate, the only method is to apply the registration.

Applicant of imported health food registration

As long as the applicant is the legal holder of the marketed product, it is allowed to apply registration.

Applicant of imported health food filing

As long as the applicant is the legal holder of the marketed product, it is allowed to apply filing.

4. Registration procedure will be managed based on the risk grade

I. In the previous regulation, the on-the-spot inspection of manufacture quality management system is not required. However, in new draft, whether conduct the on-the-spot inspection or not, will depend on the result of the technical evaluation.

II. In the previous, after the acceptance of registration, the re-test and technical evaluation will be conducted at the same time, while, in new draft re-test could be exempted if no risk affirmed by CFDA after technical evaluation and (or) spot inspection. (Note: The re-test in the old regulation refers to product quality re-test such as hygienic items, active ingredients and other items listed in the quality standard. Whereas, the re-test in the new regulation includes toxicity test, function test and etc.)

5. The change of the required materials on health food registration and filing

I. For the materials of  health food registration, the new regulation stipulates more detailed requirements on R&D materials and product formula materials, but there is no significant change on the overall required materials.

II. For the materials of health food registration, the biggest change is that the new regulation particularly points out that safety toxicology materials and function materials are required rather than the safety toxicology testing reports and function testing reports in the old regulation. Therefore, CIRS experts predict that in the near future enterprises could arrange toxicology testing and function testing in any qualified laboratory in China or oversea countries instead of in the assigned 58 (up to 10th August) laboratories in China.

III. For the materials of health food filing, the materials on product formula, production process etc. are simplified. As there is no any further required particular material about safety toxicology materials and function materials, a heroic assumption was made by CIRS    that toxicology testing reports and function testing reports will be no longer needed to provide in health food filing.

IV. For the material of health food registration and filing, the required materials in new regulation and old regulation are similar.

V. For the more specific changes on health food registration, please kindly refer to the below two links:

1. Heath Food Filing in China

2. Health Food Registration in China

6. The changes of the product name

I. Trade name which used to distinguish the product from other similar ones is a mandatory part of the product name, and this new added article may lead trend of brand name registration.

II. The new regulation stipulates that function name or relevant function claim in the product name is forbidden, the registered dietary supplement with function name may need to conduct the product name modification.

7. Health food function directory is added

I. There are only 27 healthy functions which are allowed to apply in the old regulation. With the publishing of Administrative Measures on the labeling of Health Food (Draft), related manufacturer, research institution and other organization are permitted to develop new functions with the goal of motivating industry innovation and enhancing enterprise competitiveness.

II. In fact, a large number of imported health food of which the function is outside of 27 functions list could not enter Chinese market previously. In the near future, enterprises could apply the new function and the health food function directory will be updated by CFDA.

8. Health food raw material directory is added

I. The focus of health food regulatory supervision is shifted from the technical evaluation of the finished product to the food raw material of the product. Although the requirements of the filing system are reduced at the first glance appear, actually the application scope of the raw material is restricted by the directory in order to guarantee the safety of the finished product.

II. As the procedure of filing is much briefer and the cost of filing is much cheaper than of registration, a lot of health food of which the food raw materials are in the directory will be produced by domestic manufacturers. However, vast similar products will cause a limited range of products which will lead the vapidity in the Chinese market.                                                                                                              

III. An important note is that if the extractive of the listed raw material in the directory is used as the ingredient, the product needs to registration not filing.

9. The authorized department for health foods registration and filling:

Domestic health food registration

CFDA

Domestic health food filing

Provincial FDA

Imported health food registration

CFDA

Imported health food filing

CFDA

10. Timeliness of the filing certificate

Applying the production license in the limited time is necessary after getting the filing certificate, otherwise the certificate will be invalid. Filing certificate and production license are different.

11. Registration certificate will be cancelled

If the registered health food has not been produced in 5 years' expiry date, the registration certificate will be cancelled by CFDA.

12. Administrative cost will be charged

Administrative cost of health food registration will be charged by CFDA. The specific fee will be published by CFDA in the near future.