If you’re new to the dairy industry, to be a producer of dairy products in Australia you must first be awarded a dairy manufacturing licence from the dairy regulatory agency in your state. These are all listed below, and whilst each will have a specific process for gaining the licence, in all cases it is mandatory that you have a Food Safety Plan for your premises as per FSANZ Food Standards Code 4.3.1. The plan will be audited by the agency and will need to include details of your HACCP plan to ensure product safety. This licence enables you to produce and sell products in Australia, but not to export them.
Commonwealth Department of Health – Food Regulation
Department of Health and Human Services – Health.VIC
Food Standards Australia New Zealand
New South Wales Food Authority
Safe Food Queensland
Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority
Dairy Authority of South Australia
WA Department of Health
If you want to export your dairy products, you need to be granted an Export Licence from the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (‘DAWR’). This will involve an additional audit of your premises to ensure compliance with the Export Control Act. For each country, you wish to export to, including China, you will need to demonstrate an understanding of the importing country requirements. This is more than just knowing specific product standards. You will need to know other specific items such as the right health certificate to use with your shipments and what the testing requirements are for your products. DAWR has an online database called MiCOR (Manual of Importing Country Requirements) which you may find a useful starting point.
Don’t forget to access the Dairy Industry’s Are You Trade Ready? Self-Assessment Tool to find out what you need to know about manufacturing and exporting dairy products.
What Product to Make
Deciding which product(s) you are going to manufacture will have implications for the process of registration of both your factory and the approval of your actual product.
- Are you going to make the product yourself or find a contract manufacturer to make it for you? If you use a contract manufacturer, how do you choose one?
- How are you going to distribute your products in China?
If you choose a traditional retail storefront option where your products typically are shipped to China then distributed by an in-market trading partner, then you must comply with the full gamut of Chinese regulations. These are much more prescriptive than those we are currently used to in Australia, and are also prone to changing, and often with relatively short notice.
Products sold in e-commerce channels are deemed to be for personal use, regardless of the volume ordered, and currently are not required to meet the same level of regulatory detail as those sold in the traditional retail sector. If you choose this approach, it’s important to understand that, historically, this channel can have regulations applied at very short notice (within days) which can have a significant commercial impact. Products sold in this channel are also often difficult to control. Remember it’s your brand, and there are distinct advantages of controlling how its presented and sold in markets such as China. This channel is also significantly exposed to food fraud.
All dairy products entering China need to be registered with the Chinese Inspection and Quarantine Services, or CIQ, at the port where they enter the market. The importer is key to the process as they must do the registration on your behalf and identify as the importer of the product. This is a relatively simple process and can be completed online, and is required by all distributors of the product. So, if you are using more than one importer then they will each need to do an online registration. Details of this process can be found for each product, in the product section of this site.
New products will also need to be approved by the CIQ. You are required to provide product samples as per the exact formulation you intend to ship, and in the final packaging that will be used for sale. A couple of very important points to consider when sending samples:
- In China, product samples are considered as commercial trade and if these fail analyses for compliance with regulations – both composition and labelling – then this will be recorded as such. The CIQ data feeds in to the AQSIQ which publishes a list of failed imports on their website monthly. This is a public site and is constantly monitored by consumer advocacy groups and the media in China so exporters need to be very aware of this and treat samples very much as they would products for sale.
- Before sending samples of products, ensure how they will be classified in the product groupings identified by the CNCA registration process. If your establishment is not registered for that product group then you will not be able to export it. Equally, if you are a brand owner using a contract manufacturer to make your product, then it is essential that you clarify that the manufacturer is registered for that product type. You can do this by checking their listing on the CNCA website.
- The Chinese have GB Standards (National standards) for individual products. You can find the relevant GB Standard under each product category on this website. From a compositional perspective, they may not align completely with the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Food Standards Code and so it is essential that you know which GB standard applies to your product and that you formulate it accordingly. Also, the GB standards will identify test methods to be used to measure the different parameters of your product. When having your products tested in Australia to produce your Certificate of Analysis to accompany your shipment, you will need to ensure the laboratory is aware that you are exporting to China and that the GB standard methods are used and reported on your Certificate of Analysis. English translations of those methods are available here.
- Once approved and you commence shipping product, you need to understand the product testing protocols which must be followed. These will vary depending on the product you’re shipping, and will be different for product shipped for the first time compared to ongoing shipments once your commercial trade starts to flow. This information is available on the Test Report tab for each product type, on this site.
- Finally, it’s not simply the product formulation you are registering or seeking approval to export. Chinese authorities will consider each flavour variant, or pack size variant of your product as a new product and as such will need to be registered individually. So, you can’t just, for example, assume that if you’ve been exporting a 200mL pack of UHT milk and you now want to add a 500mL pack to your range, that you can simply start to ship it because the content of the pack is the same product. You will need to first register the 500mL SKU, including the packaging, in addition to the 200mL pack you will already have approved.
Getting Access to the Chinese Market
Since May 2014 with the implementation of the China Food Safety Law, the Chinese Government requires that all establishments producing dairy products to be exported to China must be registered by the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA). This applies to all countries around the world, not just Australia.
So, for all dairy products – except infant formula where a specific separate form is used – establishments must complete a detailed application form. The form requests details of the company, financial stability, information about the manufacturing site, capacity, manufacturing equipment, staff training processes, quality assurance processes, ingredient sourcing specifications and testing programs, and a list of the specific products being made at this site. Applications must indicate the product categories to be included on the establishment listing (based on the products being made – they don’t have to be part of your export plans immediately). Details of this step can be found under each product tab on this site.
In many countries around the world, the CNCA must audit the premises before approval to export can be issued. In Australia, we are very fortunate the Chinese Government have a level of confidence of our dairy food regulatory framework, and so chose to audit our entire system and not those of individual companies. On this basis, DAWR has been granted “Competent Authority” status by the China Government. This means all applications are submitted to DAWR who will assess them and forward them to CNCA (assuming they believe they’re satisfactory), with a recommendation that the applicant be added to the list of approved exporters. A similar process is to be followed if modifications need to be made to an establishment listing – this might include a change of company name, addition/removal of product categories, change to the company address. It’s important to note that even when written approval is issued. Exporters are not officially approved to commence trade, until the approval is included in the CNCA website public listings.
Those involved in producing Infant Formula have a separate registration process to follow. Infant Formula manufacture must be just that. You cannot apply for registration if you are in the business of just canning bulk formula you’ve purchased from a third party. You need to blend other ingredients to “substantially transform” the base powder into another product to meet the definition of an IF manufacturer. There are further specific details to be provided about the actual formulation to be used, research to support the use and quantity of ingredients being used, and some detailed requirements about the manufacturing site. The CNCA must also physically come and audit the manufacturing site before they will grant export approval. Infant formula brands must also be registered by the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA). Each CNCA established listed for infant formula export may apply to have up to three brands registered by the CFDA. For further information on this, refer to the Infant Formula page on this site.