How to Import Food from China? 1

How to Import Food from China: The Ultimate FAQ Guide

Before you import food from China, read this guide.

It has all information that will help you choose the best food products from China.

Whether you want to learn about safety, FDA approval, quality standards, or shipping container – you will find all information right here.

Keep reading to learn to learn more.

Why should you Import Food from China?

Food from China

Food from China

Chinese cuisine is a popular meal all over the world.

Each year, millions of customers stream into restaurants offering this option to have an experience.

If you’re opening a Chinese restaurant or food store, you could opt to buy food from China directly and get culinary variety, low price points, and unique flavors.

Chinese food is the oldest cuisine in the world and thus very complex.

Majority of the existing Chinese restaurants serve the same dishes since non-Chinese patrons are likely to have heard or tasted them before.

Importing food products from China allows you to preserve this authenticity as not many people can hack it.

What are some Food Products you can Import from China?

It isyour responsibility to ensure whether imported food from China is subject to any regulations, restrictions or permit by your country.

Some of the foods you can import from China are:

China dairy product

China dairy products

Meat and Dairy Products

Rabbit, frog legs


Crab, shrimp, cod, prawns, tilapia, shellfish, and other types of fish

Food Preparations and Ingredients

Cocoa butter, vegetable saps and extracts, soy sauce, malt extracts, starch and wheat gluten and other food preparations

Nut Products, Vegetable, Fruits, Vegetable, and Juice

Canned mandarins and dried mushrooms, canned beans, frozen vegetables, garlic, pear, and apple juice

Spices and Tea

Chili paste/powder, ginger, tea Leaves

Animal Feed and Pet Food

Pet food and snacks


Vinegar, beer, ethyl alcohol, sweetened water

Oilseeds and Grains

Soybeans, rice

Others include honey, candy, and other confectionery amongst other food products/

What do you need in Order to Start Importing Food from China?

Before import food from China, you’ll need to identify if you have importation rights especially if you’re purchasing for commercial purposes.

If you are importing into United States, for example, your company’s Internal Revenue Service Number (IRS EIN) or Social Security Number (SSN) can be used.

Check with your government for specific requirements.

What is the Basic Importing Process for Food from China?

  1. Confirm your import rights.
  2. Identify the food you want to import. This will be your main consideration.

You should conduct a market search prior and identify if there is a niche for the specific food you intend to import.

  1. Ensure that your exports comply with your government’s specific rules and regulations.
  2. Make an estimate of your landed costs. Get the food price from your supplier; add shipping charges and charges from custom clearance to get the landed costs.
  3. Find your supplier in China and make an order.
  4. Arrange your cargo transport. Your options vary between sea freight, air freight, and courier service
  5. Track your cargo and prepare for arrival
  6. Receive your shipment.

What are the Safety and Quality Standards for Food you Import from China?

Most safety risks related to imported food from China come up in the handling and manufacturing of the food.

Poor storage and handling introduce viruses, fungi, bacteria, pests, parasites, and other toxins.

Before purchasing, conduct a background check of your supplier to ensure they comply with international Food Safety Laws that make them liable for food safety violations.

Not that some food products are imported fresh and may require refrigeration or during transport.

Do you need FDA Approval to Import Food from China?

Yes. All facilities that handle food to be consumed in the United States; including food imported from China must register with FDA.

Importers are responsible for compliance with labeling, sanitary, and safety regulations

What are the FDA Requirements for Food you Import from China?

Other than meeting the set requirements in food regulation including registration of your food facility, you must adhere to import procedure and stipulation of Prior Notice.

Different food products have varied requirements when imported from China.

Take note of the specific requirements of your food items and check for compliance.

The following are available on the FDA’s website for specific requirements:

  • ATPCP (Accredited Third Party Certification Program)
  • ISSP (Imported Seafood Safety Program)
  • VQIP (Voluntary Qualified Importer Program)
  • FSVP (Foreign Supplier Verification Programs) for importation of human and animal feed
  • MCP (Manual of Compliance Policy )
  • HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point)
  • Prior Notice of imported food

Any foods processed through the food additives regulations should be marked “Approved by FDA.”

What Food Products don’t need FDA Approval to Import from China?

As long as Prior Notice of food shipment is given and your facility is FDA registered, you can import food from China without prior sanction.

Can you Import Food from China that is not FDA Approved?

No. all imported food commodities should meet the FDA regulations.

FDA Approval

FDA Approved

What are the Categories of Food Hazards from China?

Imported food from China may be contaminated during shipping or handling and be deemed unsuitable for consumption.

These are the food hazards you should look out for

Biological Hazards

These are viruses, bacteria or parasites in food.

Chemical Hazards

These are things that introduce unwanted chemicals into the food for example cleaning chemicals, improper use of food additives and unintentional contact with food allergens.

Physical Hazards

Sometimes unintentional objects like jewelry, bone chips, shells or other dangerous material end up in food and contaminate it.

How do you Identify Food Hazards when Importing from China?

Here are some of the ways to identify food hazards:

Biological Hazards

Watch out for staff with poor hygiene, bacteria commonly found in food, spoilt ingredients and Preparation and storage of food at temperatures that allow bacteria to grow.

Chemical Hazards

Watch out for unintentional contact with common food allergens, cleaning chemicals, and improper use of food additives.

Physical Hazards

Watch out for personal objects and other material that do not belong in food.

How do you Prevent Food Safety Hazards when Importing from China?

Here are some of the key aspects you need to consider:

Biological Hazards

  • Storage and preparation of food at appropriate temperatures
  • Rotating stock
  • Practicing good hygiene in all facilities

Chemical Hazards

  • Use correct cleaning and preparation procedures
  • Label and store chemicals separately from food

Physical Hazards

  • Follow appropriate procedures in your facilities
  • Conduct regular visual inspection

What are the Main Documents Required to Import Food from China?

Import documents

Import documents

Prior notice

An electronic submission that allows FDA and CBP officials to prioritize inspection for upcoming food imports.

FDA Facility Registration

All foreign manufacturers, suppliers and distributers of food intended for the U.S market must register their facility with FDA.

Bill of lading

This document acts as receipt, title and contract and gives tracking information of the goods.

Commercial invoice

It contains all the details of goods such as country of origin, dates, prices, and HTC Code.

Packing list

Also contains the details of the shipment including description, size, weight, dimensions, and invoice numbers.

Customs bond

This acts as a financial guarantee that all import duties and fees will be paid to CBP.

Entry summary

Officially recognized as CBP Form 7501 and is a combination of all information found in the other documents.

Is Food from China Safe?

Concerns have been raised over the safety of food from China after several ingredients were found to be tainted with the chemical melamine.

They included products from brands like Cadbury, Heinz, and Mars and sickened thousands of infants in China.

Conduct a proper market research before purchasing from your supplier.

What are Some Foods you can’t Import from China?

While all permitted foods can be imported from China, there are restrictions put in place to control the importation of certain food items.

Products from animals must consent with specific health conditions such as pre-shipment checks for unlawful veterinary drugs nitro furans and chloramphenicol and related metabolites.

Fishery products with traces of crystal violet, malachite green, and related metabolites also cannot be imported.

What are High Risk Foods?

High risk foods are foods containing contaminants like salmonella or pesticides, aflatoxins, and mycotoxins.

What are the China Food Export Regulations?

As an importer, ensure all food products meet all required China export regulations.

These include rules set in place by the FDA, USDA, CBP and FWS.

For food products such as honey, milk, honey and meat there are additional regulations that govern their exportation.

How do you Ensure the Quality of Food you Import from China?

All imported food products should comply with FDA regulations.

The agency is incharge of overseeing importing of regulated products like food and animal feed, vaccines, vet and human medicine, and other biologic goods, medical devices, and cosmetics.

What are the Labeling Requirements when Importing Food from China?

Product labelling requirements

Product labelling requirement

FDA is very strict when it comes to product labeling of imported food commodity.

At minimum, the following information should be included

  • Product name and address of the company distributing the food product
  • Net quantity
  • Nutrition
  • Ingredients list
  • Name and place of manufacturer/ importer
  • Country and origin
  • Brand logo or names of companies must be used with permission in terms of copyright laws

You must verify the label template created by the supplier is fully compliant with the requirements.

Any information in foreign language should be translated to English.

What are the Packaging Regulations for Food you Import from China?

The packaging you choose for your food products should include proper information for handling of goods hygienically and safely.

The packaging of food has three layers:

Export or TransportPackaging – This is the outermost layer that protecting the goods in shipping.

Outer Packaging – This is an intermediate layer such as a wrap with several pouches of the food product.

Sales Packaging – This is the inner most layer of packaging of the food product.

Food contact material regulations apply to all materials in contact with human food products.

A packaging sample(E.g. plastic bag) should be sent to the lab to ascertain compliance.

Aluminum is safe material in contact with food though not appropriate for very acidic foodstuffs like tomatoes.

Materials like plastics are limited to a packaging of 10mg per kilogram of imported food.

The ultimate rule is that all materials of packaging should not let their constituents to contaminate food.

That is in amounts that will affect quality of the food or harm human health.

How can you Ship Food Products from China?

Food products should be properly packaged during shipping to preserve freshness.

Some of these packaging include: shipping containers with foam insulating like Styrofoam, card boxes with insulating box liners and dry ice boxes to maintain low temperatures.

Reefer shipping container for food

Reefer shipping container

You can ship with:

Do you need a Customs Broker when Importing Foods from China?

The process of importing food products from China is highly involving and prone to mistakes that lead to major issues.

Many importers, especially first time importers, opt to work with a Licensed Customs Broker.

Dealing with strict custom regulations and requirements is part of their daily responsibilities.

They take the worry and hustle out of importing to let you focus on other aspects of the business.

What are the Incoterms for Importing Food from China?

When importing food from China, various incoterms state the obligations of the exporter and importer at various points in the food shipping process.

Incoterms for all modes of transportation are:

  • Ex Works (EXW)

The seller avails goods to be picked up at its premises with no obligation to load.

  • Free Carrier (FCA)

Seller makes goods available and is responsible for loading to buyers transport.

  • Carriage Paid To (CPT)

Seller delivers products to the carrier or a specified shipment point.

  • Carriage and Insurance Paid To (CIP)

Exporter is responsible for transportation costs.

  • Delivery At Place (DAP)

Exporter makes delivery to destination without unloading.

  • Delivered At Place Unloaded (DPU)

Exporter makes delivery and unloads at terminal.

  • Delivered Duty Paid (DDP)

Exporter makes delivery to an agreed destination ready to be unloaded and for clearing for importation.

Incoterms for sea transport include:

  • Free Alongside Ship (FAS)

Exporter clears shipment and makes delivery after they are placed next to the ship at the port.

  • Free On Board (FOB)

Exporter makes delivery as they are on board the vessel at a specified port.

  • Cost and Freight (CFR)

Exporter makes delivery as they are on board foots the costs related in shipping to destination port.

  • Cost, Insurance, and Freight (CIF)

Exporter bears the cost of freight and insurance all the way to destination port.

What is the Importance of Incoterms when Importing Food from China?

Incoterms 2020

Incoterms 2020

Incoterms provide importers and exporters clear and succinct rules to help each of them understand their obligations and fills in any cracks in the contract.

When an exporter and importer settle on a certain incoterm, they both accept the related responsibilities and obligations defined under that particular incoterm.

Are there Special Requirements for Importing Seafood from China?

FDA ensures all seafood imports are safe for American consumers. Imported China seafood safety requirements include:

  • Sampling of imported food products
  • Inspection of sea food importers
  • Reviewing information from all foreign food import partners
  • Inspecting fillers of sea food imports
  • Assessing country program assessments
  • Inspection of foreign food processing facilities

What are the Factors to Consider when Choosing a Chinese Food Supplier?

You should note hat there are many scammers and fake Chinese food suppliers online.

To avoid getting conned, find a trustworthy supplier by looking at these two aspects:

i. Is the company a legitimate business with a good reputation and does the supplier have the ability to produce the goods?

ii. Here are some effective strategies to answer these questions:

  • As you check Chinese wholesale websites online, ensure you go through all their policies, terms and conditions.

Ensure they have a physical address and contact information posted.

Try searching “[company name] + scam” or any other similar variations to find traces of a bad experience by a previous customer.

  • Before purchasing from a new supplier, make a call to their company landline and verify the information posted online.

Scammers are more likely to use mobile phone numbers.

You can do a quick check of the physical location of a landline.

  • Visit the local Chinese administration government website and verify provided business licenses.

You can even contact the local bureau of industry commerce.

  • Verify the supplier’s track record and financial credit worthiness by asking to be provided with their banks reference letters.
  • Get a sample of the items you intend to purchase, even if they ask you to pay for it.
  • Conduct a factory audit. You could do this by visiting the company physically or asking your local agent to.

You can also have your local agent pick up the goods on your behalf and pay cash on delivery.

Only purchase from a supplier who checks out

Can you Import Food from China to Amazon FBA?

Yes. Import food from China can be sold on Amazon FBA.

To successfully sell China food imports on Amazon FBA, you will be responsible for the following:

Choosing which Products to Sell

When selling imported food from China on amazon FBA, minimize storage fees by choosing products that will sell quickly.

Keep your Inventory in Stock

On the regular, check your inventory levels on amazon and make sure your products stay in stock.

Advertising and Marketing your Products

You may not have to do this if you are selling highly ranked brand name imported food from China.

However for custom products, make sure people can find them by properly advertising.

Is there MOQ for Food Products from China?

When you approach a specified supplier, their quotation will entail all information on the goods including: grade, specifications, packaging, mode of transportation, product capacity and individual policy.

When seeking quotations from multiple sellers, you will notice the variation in each of their minimum order quantity (MOQ).

You will notice that bigger suppliers will have a higher MOQ.

Ordering less has several costs overhead and reduces margin considerably.

This is why suppliers set MOQ

For importation, there is no law that restricts to a minimum order.

However, if you want shipment via sea route with a consolidator, opt for size of one cubic meter.

Small cargo may not have sea option or may be costly.

What are the Steps for Importing Pet Food from China?

Pet food that can be imported from China include processed pet food in sealed containers and packaging.

Others include dog chews, processed pet food from fish material, and animal byproducts for further processing.

To successfully import pet food or any dietary supplements for pets you should know about:

  • Your product information, where it’s from and what it contains
  • The biosecurity imports health standard (IHS) for your product and how to meet its requirements. If your product does not meet HIS requirements, apply for a permit
  • Agricultural compounds and veterinary medicines (ACVM) act requirements
  • Packaging and labeling requirements
  • Relevant fees andcharges.

If your imported pet food from China does not meet HIS and ACVM requirements, they won’t be cleared at the customs.

Following assessment, an MPI inspector will ask you to reship the product, destroy, treat or ask the product to be held until authorization is confirmed.

The importer is liable of all costs associated with non-compliance.

What is the Cost of Importing Food Products from China?

When importing food products from China, you should understand clearance documents, import duties and custom fees.

Chinese food is a good option for an importer as one can reap huge profits selling online or locally.

The entire international trade process seems complicated as the tariffs depend on the specific food products.

The US customs impose taxes on goods valued at $8 or more.

Values below that are free of tariffs. As of June 3, 2018 the United States increased tax on China’s 50 billion goods by 25%, increasing the cost for American consumers.

Other costs include shipping costs which varies depending on the size of shipment, terminal conditions, transport infrastructure, regulatory and political changes and relevant customs procedures and landing fees.

Depending on your budget you have an option of taking sea freight or air freight.

What are the Requirements for Importing Baby Food Products from China?

While there are no restrictions on the importation of baby formula specifically, the FDA has set up guidelines of labeling for importers to adhere to.

For example, before the formula is imported from China, the label should list all ingredients in the product.

It should also be clearly marked with the country of origin before it’s imported.

FDA requires that imported baby food from China meets the minimum nutritional and safety requirements pediatricians highly recommend infant formulas fortified with iron.

What is the Customs Clearance Process for Food you Import from China?

When food imported from China lands in the US, it goes through numerous processes before it allowed into the local market.

At first, the hold in which food was shipped is assessed to confirm that it meets the set stipulations in regards to the nature of the food items.

The customs clearance department then check the visual appearance of commodity, assessing for possible damage – swelling and also for pest or dirt contamination.

The labels of the products are then checked for concurrence of stipulations under the packaged commodity laws and prevention of food alteration laws.

The labels should not only been in a foreign language but with an English translation with ingredients details in descending the date of manufacture, expiry date, and batch number should be clearly marked.

Other than the general checks mentioned, imported food consignments from China through sea ports, Air Cargo Complexes (ACC), Land Customs Stations (LCS), Container Freight Stations (CFS), and Inland Container Depots (ICD) are referred for testing to the port health officer(PHO).

The customs authorities have a right to destroy the products or re-export them under the relevant rules if they fail the test.

Do you need to Declare Food at the Importing Country’s Customs?


A customs declaration form is filled on any special items at the point of exit.

Food commodities in large quantities have to be declared and appropriate levies paid.

Different countries have different regulations governing export of specific food items.

Some items cannot be exported.

What is Quarantine Inspection for Food Imports?

Quarantin inspection

Quarantine inspection for food imports

Quarantine inspection is the inspection, regulation and enforcement of regulations at border quarantine stations to prevent entry of agricultural pests and other illegal commodities.

Quarantine inspection of food items is done on imports on entry b ythe quarantine department.

Its main objectives are

  • Certification of disease and pest free status, and the standard and quality of quality products.
  • Maintaining a local surveillance program in order to intercept commodities of quarantine importance imported illegally.
  • Maintenance of ports of entry for a dynamic inspection service that will curb the introduction of diseases and pests through imports and ensure standards of quality is complied with.

Is Quarantine Inspection necessary for Foods you Import from China?


A full quarantine and inspection of foods imported from China involves these steps:

  • Application acceptance
  • Inspection and review
  • Quarantine and treatment in quarantine
  • General appraisal
  • Release of commodity and archiving

For specified food items, further scrutiny or quarantine processes depend on the commodity and its physical nature, certification obtained for the product or the history of compliance of the importer.

A simplified procedure may apply to importers with great compliance records.

Additionally, for commodities that do not require random sampling, an importer may submit a written compliance guarantee and have the goods directly released.

Has the COVID 19 affected Importing Foods from China?


After the outbreak of COVID-19, agricultural products from China plunged drastically.

China exports increases by 11% according General Administration of Customs’ data.

The main reason for the dramatic decline can be assessed in two ways:

First, the restrictions of trade imposed of agricultural commodity from China by several importing countries

Two, the sudden disrupting of agricultural exports’ supply chains.

Since workers stayed at home, many export producing firms remained shut.

In addition, transportation control increased fees. 70% of respondent firms on a survey experienced an increase in logistical fees.

Further, the domestic ports efficiency of operation has declined and resulted to reduction in capacity of transportation, with some banning trade ships from other countries from docking.

Furthermore, some countries took advantage of the pandemic and set up measures to bar importation of agricultural commodities from China.

Other than activating a short term chain of supply and logistic interference, China’s agricultural exports will be affected for longer as a result of decreased demand for agricultural imports caused by the global economic recession during the pandemic.

Note that whenCOVID-19 was declared the as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by World Health Organization (WHO).

At least 17 countries announced measures restricting importation of agricultural products from China, especially animal products and live animals.

How do you Import Food from many different Suppliers in China?

If you’re purchasing your food imports in wholesale or from different suppliers, here are some tips you can use:

Conduct a Research

Before purchasing from any supplier, you should conduct a market search and identify those with the best products to maximize value for money.

Cheapest imports are not always the best and you should not rush into huge discounts and deals.

Sometimes, a supplier may have access to other suppliers of complimentary goods.

When conducting your research, ask the suppliers about other suppliers.

Find Good Suppliers

Be careful of fraudulent sites and scammers when purchasing online.

Check for feedbacks and reviews of other customers to identify the best possible suppliers.

If the market shows a favorable response when you list a few for sale, it should be safe to increase order quantities.

Place an Order

After identifying your suppliers, make orders and organize freight.

If you’re not in China in person, have an agent organize shipment of all commodities to a specific location so they can be transported in one shipment, cutting costs.

Ensure you talk to a certified customs broker to ensure you fill in the correct forms.

Receive your Shipment

Pay the necessary custom fees once the goods arrive and receive the products.

Note that researching the market and finding good suppliers will take a long time but will be worth it.

What are the Disadvantages of Importing Food from China?

Some of the main disadvantages are:

Mistakes in Part of the Process

Any business transaction of whatever nature can fail.

However, some factors may increase this risk, such as lack of information, processing skills, or lack of appropriate language mastery

Quality Standards

Some food products may be completely legal and compliant with standards in China but not in the importing country.

It is essential that the person making the purchase understand the regulations and avoid losses caused by such incapability.

A Complex Purchase Process

Many companies complain of the complex purchase process from China, usually caused by trust issues, cultural difference or difficult negotiations due to language.

Displacement of Time and Money

Ifyou chose to travel to China for quality process control, you will inevitably incur extra expenses.

Of course, these are expenses not factored in the process, especially if it takes longer than projected.

What is the Safest Way to Pay Chinese Food Suppliers?

You can consider any of the following modes of payment:

Consignment Purchase

This is ultimately the safest way to pay for imported food from China.

In this form of purchase, the buyer does not make payment until the imports are sold to the end user.

Incase of no sales, the goods are re-shipped back to the exporter.

Other common terms of purchase include:


This is a way of payment where the importer makes the payment prior to the food being shipped from China.

This method involves direct exporter-importer contact without bank involvement and is thus inexpensive.

On the flip side, it there are plenty of risk factors involved at importer’s expense.

Down Payment

In this term of purchase, the importer pays part of the total amount in advance before the items are shipped.

Open Account

In this mode of payment, the supplier makes the delivery of commodity and receives payment at some specific date in the future.

Open account is common when the importer has a good credit history and a working relationship with the supplier.

Documentary Collections

This is another payment method with banks as intermediary.

Here,the bank settles the sale transaction through exchange of importation documents.

The supplier’s bank will forward the transaction documents to the importer’s bank requesting to present them to the importer for payment.

Besides, the exporter dictates the conditions on which the documents can be released.

Letter of Credit

Here, the supplier fulfills the terms on the letter of credit with a guarantee from the bank that the buyer will make payment of amount in agreement.

How do you Verify if your Chinese Food Supplier is GMP/HACCP Certified?

GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) is a system that ensures that food products meet safety, legal and quality requirements.

HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) is a program that ensures food safety and can be part of GMP.

Food manufacturers should have GMP in place.

These are the elements of HACCP Verification:



CCP Verification

  • Verification of CCPs

It includes confirmation that CCPs are well selected and whether any other processing stages could be better described as CCPs

  • Verification of Critical Limits (CLs), Corrective Actions and CCP Monitoring

Verification of any activities related to CCPs to ensure they are compliant with the HACCP plan.

  • Calibration

Depending on precise and accurate measurements of parameters (e.g.,Ph., pressure, temperature and other parameters) CCPs are sufficiently monitored.

  • CCP Records Review

As defined in the HACCP Plan, verification of records is done to ascertain compliance in preparation and implementation.

HACCP System Verification

  • Preliminary steps

Entails a comprehensive verification if:

  • all commodities covered in the plan are well stated in regards to composition, processing, and their intended use
  • the HACCP team is functioning and adequate according to the plan
  • the flow diagram accurately and adequately explains the steps taken in the processing system


  • Prerequisite Programs

PPs verification in the HACCP Plan should at minimum entail a yearly revision of standard operating procedures (SOPs) together with other related programs.

Records are audited to prove that programs are implemented according to the plan.

  • Hazard Analysis

Verification is done to determine compliance of the HACCP plan in the processes used in the hazard, and to confirm appropriate use of sources information.

  • HACCP System Records Review

This involves examination of all the records and documents in regards to completion, implementation and accuracy.


This is a component of verification focusing on collection, evaluation of technical and scientific information.

It aims at determining if the identified food hazards will be controlled by the HACCP plan effectively when properly implemented.

It involves the re-examination of CCPs, CLs, hazard analysis, monitoring acts and further facets of the HACCP plan ensuring that proper hazards are flagged and controlled.

Now, with this information, I am sure you can import food from China safely.

In case you have you need help when importing food from China, feel free to contact BanSar right away.

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