28 Sept 2018
Regulations on Product Packaging and Labelling
Principles to comply with in product labelling
By truthfulness, it means that the information given in the product labels must reflect the true characteristics of the product and must not contain any element of falsehood or exaggeration. In a product label, the principle of truthfulness embodies the manufacturer’s obligation to show good faith and protect consumers’ right to know.
According to China’s Product Quality Law (2009 Amendment), labels on products or their packaging must be true and meet the following requirements:
- Showing certification of product quality inspection;
- Showing in Chinese the name of the product and the name and address of the manufacturer;
- Showing in Chinese the specifications, the grade, the name and content of major ingredients of the product as necessitated by the properties and usage requirements of the product; where any matter needs to be revealed to the consumers, marks shall be made on the exterior package, or the relevant information shall be provided to the consumers beforehand;
- Showing clearly in a prominent position the production date and the service life or expiry date if the product has a limited service life; and
- Showing warning marks or warning instructions in Chinese for products that are liable to be damaged or to endanger personal or property safety in case of misuse.
(b) Legal compliance
The principle of legal compliance has two levels of meaning. First, the content of a product label must be marked in accordance with the provisions of relevant laws and regulations (including mandatory national standards and industry standards). Second, the content of a product label may not contravene the prohibitive provisions of laws and regulations (including the prohibitive provisions of mandatory national standards and industry standards).
For example, Article 24 of the Implementation Rules of the Standardisation Law states that enterprises may go by national, industry, local or enterprise standards in production. The code, serial number and name of the standards shall be marked on the product, or written in the product packaging or manual.
Article 30 of the Product Quality Law stipulates that no manufacturer may forge the origin of a product, or forge or illegally use the name and address of another manufacturer.
Article 33 (1) of the Regulations on the Administration of Production Licence for Industrial Products states that enterprises must show the mark and number of their production licence on their products or on the product packaging and manual.
Article 71 (1) of the Food Safety Law (2015 Amendment) states that no food or food additive labels or instruction manuals may contain false information or involve disease prevention or treatment functions. Manufacturers shall be responsible for the content of the labels and instruction manuals they provide.
Necessity, or appropriateness, means that the content of the product label can adequately reflect the quality of the product and ensure consumers’ right to know. The principle of necessity means that information required to be labelled according to regulations shall not be omitted, and content that manufacturers may label at their own discretion shall be labelled with care. Apart from content that must be labelled, too much labelling is not necessarily better, as excessive labelling may easily give rise to quality disputes.
Convenience means that the content of product labels should help consumers recognise and distinguish the products. The principle of convenience includes the following points:
- The content indicated on product labels must be clear. For example, blurred printing and the use of traditional Chinese characters on products produced and sold in China are contrary to the principle of convenience.
- Important information such as product name, factory name, contact telephone number, date of manufacture, best before date, points to note, and information that the product is intended for special groups, such as elderly people and children, must be prominently shown on the label (a larger font size, a more forward position, and a more striking colour may be used) to let consumers know when they choose the product.