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Jan 04, 2019

Improper handling of expired food cause major food safety issues.

At present, many supermarkets and distributors often return the food near or beyond the expiration date to the manufacturer in order to save the cost of disposing expired food. This is a common practice in the food industry, even many distributors have written it into their contracts with the manufacturers.

So How to dispose of foods beyond their expiration date and recycled foods? What are the laws and regulations for foods beyond their expiration date and recycled food in China?


1. Expiration date

Expiration date means the date which signifies the end of the period under any storage conditions stated on the label of the prepackaged food, during which the quality of the product will be preserved and the product will remain fully marketable and retain the specific qualities for which tacit or express claims have been made on its label.(GB 7718-2011)

The expiration date of prepackaged food is the period to maintain the quality of food, which is exactly the best edible period. It is determined by the producer after scientific verification and provided to consumers through labels and other means.(Implementation guide for GB 7718-2011)

The expiration date is the time limit for food to maintain quality under certain storage environment parameters such as temperature, humidity and light.(T/CNFIA 001-2017)

2. Recycled food

According to the notice of former AQSIQ on the issues about prohibiting the use of recycled food as raw materials in food production and processing, the recycled food includes:

(1) all kinds of food and semi-finished products recycled by food production and processing enterprises within expiration date;

(2) all kinds of food and semi-finished products that have exceeded the expiration date recycled by food production enterprises;

(3) stop selling products for various reasons and returned all kinds of food and semi-finished products to food manufacturer and processing enterprises by wholesalers and retailers;

(4) all kinds of food and semi-finished products detained and confiscated by administrative law enforcement agencies due to product quality and safety problems.

II. How to dispose of food beyond expiration date and recycled food?

1. National laws and regulations

1) Food Safety Law

Article 54: food traders shall store food in accordance with the requirements for ensuring food safety, regularly check the food stock and clean up food timely that has gone bad or has exceeded the shelf life.

2) Notice of the former CFDA on further strengthening the supervision of food beyond the expiration date

Shall clean up the food timely and take measures such as discontinue operation and separate storage to withdraw from the market. If food traders and food producers or suppliers have provisions for the food return, they shall go through the return procedures in time according to the contract.

Shall dispose food beyond their expiration date and recycled food strictly. Food producers and marketers shall comply with the provisions of the food safety law and other laws and regulations, carry out harmless treatment or destruction (packaging shall be destroyed at the same time), and can also be converted into feed or fertilizer through recycling by qualified corporations. If destruction is necessary, it shall be done by itself or by a authorization to destroy the food according to the specific situation such as the variety and quantity of the food to be destroyed, and it shall not affect food safety again.

Food producers and operators shall establish food standing books to record the expiration date of their food products. Record truthfully and keep the available image data, and keep the related records for at least two years.

3) Notice on prohibiting using the recycled food as raw materials in food production and processing

The records shall include the product name, specification, batch number, production date, return date, return quantity, destruction site, destruction method, destruction quantity, destruction time, personnel in charge, etc. More than 2 persons should be present and sign when destroying the food.

2. Local laws and regulations

In addition to the national laws and regulations mentioned above, some municipal laws and regulations have their own requirements:

The Heilongjiang province food safety act stipulates food producers and traders shall regularly check the food stock and sales of food, food raw materials, if food, food raw material are found that has been deteriorating or exceed the expiration date, it shall be immediately stopped using for food production and sales, and disposal or destroy, and to set up a disposing or destroyed records, It shall not be returned to the suppliers or producers. The record shall be kept for at least two years.

The Shanghai city food safety act stipulates that food producers and operators are prohibited from returning food and food additives beyond expiration date to the relevant production and marketing enterprises.

The measures for the administration of food products near and beyond expiration date of Guangzhou also stipulates that food operators shall remove food products from shelves, sort, check, seal and keep records in a timely manner, and shall not return the products to food suppliers. The destroyed food shall be disposed in accordance with the relevant provisions. In addition, large and medium-sized food supermarkets shall set up special food sites for centralized destruction beyond expiration date, install video monitoring equipment, and clearly record the food destruction process. The record keeping period of video monitoring data shall be at least 30 days. The food producer or business operator shall fill in the transfer list, and the term of preservation of the transfer list shall not be at least 2 years.

III. Summary

At present, the main disposal methods for food beyond expiration date and recycled food by national laws and regulations are timely cleaning, harmless treatment, self-destruction or commissioned destruction, and establishing the destruction records and the available video data are kept synchronously. Relevant records shall be kept for at least two years.

In addition, Guangzhou also stipulated that the destroyed food should be treated comply with the relevant provisions of garbage disposal. Where large and medium-sized food supermarkets self-destruct foods beyond expiration date, they shall also set up special food sites where centralized destruction is taking place. Food producers and traders entrusted with the destruction shall also fill in the delivery list, and the storage term of the delivery list shall be at least 2 years.

Can expired food be returned to the manufacturer? According to the notice issued by former CFDA, if food traders have provisions on the return of food with food producers or suppliers, the return procedures shall be handled timely according to the contract. If the expired food returned to the manufacturer, the potential risk of re-entering the market after a makeover cannot be fundamentally eliminated. At present, some regions have more stringent regulations. Shanghai, Heilongjiang and Guangzhou have all banned food producers from returning food/raw materials beyond expiration date to their suppliers or producers.

Press release: link

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