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China further tightens packaging rules and bans use of precious materials for festive foods

In November last year, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) implemented new regulations to govern the local ‘excessive packaging’ phenomenon in conjunction with the local Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), with enforcement to take place starting September 1 2023. These regulations were applied for 31 food product categories from grains to beverages to biscuits and more, as well as 16 cosmetics categories including hair care and toothpaste.

Recently, MIIT published a set of draft regulations suggesting that the standards be kicked up a notch for festival-related food items such as mooncakes (for the annual Mid-Autumn Festival) and rice dumplings (for the annual Dragon Boat Festival), specifically reducing the number of packaging layers for these from four to three.

Under the ‘Requirements of Restricting Excessive Packaging – Foods and Cosmetics’ law, all packaged grains and grain-based products are already limited to three layers of packaging (eg for a wheat biscuit the first layer can be the wrapping around one biscuit, the second layer can be the wrapping around the total number of biscuits in the overall pack, and a final third layer with the product brand name can be added as an outer layer), but this was not specified for festive items, which could lay claim to being in the ‘other’ category.

“This amendment clearly states that only three layers of packaging are permitted for mooncakes and zongzi (rice dumplings), and manufacturers also need to ensure that the total packaging costs for all packaging (excluding the innermost packaging that is in contact with the food item) does not exceed over 20% of the product’s overall retail pricing,”MIIT said via a formal statement.

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