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Registration as Food Importers and Food Distributors and Import Licence in Hong Kong

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

Applications for Registration as Food Importers and Food Distributors and Import Licence for Frozen Meat, Chilled Meat, Frozen Poultry and Chilled Poultry into Hong Kong



Registration Scheme for Food Importers and Food Distributors under the Food Safety Ordinance (CAP. 612)


The Food Safety Ordinance (Cap. 612) (the Ordinance) requires anyone who carries on a food import or food distribution business to register with the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene (DFEH). The registration scheme is an important part of the food tracing mechanism introduced by the Ordinance. The scheme will assist FEHD to quickly identify and contact registered food traders in food incidents. The registration period is 3 years, renewable.


Scope of Application


Under the Ordinance, no person is allowed to carry on a food import or distribution business unless the person is registered as a food importer/food distributor for that business.


A person need not be registered as a food distributor if he is already registered as a food importer for the business concerned. Therefore, if a person is running a food import and distribution business at the same time, he only needs to register as a food importer.


The registration requirement also does not apply to persons who import food for the sole purpose of export, if the food is transported by air, or if in the period between import and export the food remains on board the vessel, vehicle or aircraft in which it is imported.


Key Activities Related to Food Distribution Business


The Ordinance provides that no person shall carry on a food distribution business unless the person is registered as a food distributor in respect of that business.


According to the Ordinance, "food distribution business" means the principal business of supplying food in Hong Kong on a wholesale basis.


The following are some of the more common examples that can help food traders determine the main activities of their business and whether they need to register with FEHD as a food distributor:


(a) In general, the main business of a supermarket is the retailing of food products to ultimate consumers. Therefore, the main activity of supermarkets is not food distribution;


(b) Market stalls, such as meat stalls and vegetable stalls, often supply raw food materials to restaurants on a regular basis. Typically, most of these supplies represent only a small portion of their business, while their main activity remains the supply of food to the ultimate consumer. Therefore, these market stalls are not required to be registered as food distributors;


(c) Some market stalls, such as poultry stalls, do not have much retail business, and the main profit comes from wholesale of processed poultry to restaurants. The main activity of these stalls should be considered food distribution;


(d) Some companies may distribute seasonal foods such as hairy crabs/mooncakes for a few months and close down for the rest of the year. They should still be considered food distributors as their main business is food distribution;


(e) Some trading companies that mainly distribute non-food products occasionally distribute food. They should be considered food distributors because their principal business in relation to the supply of food is distribution;


(f) Local vegetable farmers who supply their crops on a wholesale basis, whether through vegetable cooperatives or not, shall be considered food distributors;


(g) Local freshwater fish farmers who supply seafood on a wholesale basis must register as food distributors; and


(h) Seafood retail shops/fruit shops often distribute food to restaurants/food factories, but their main business is still retailing. Generally, they are not required to register as food distributors.


Application for Registration


The Ordinance stipulates that anyone who engages in food import/distribution business must register with DFEH as a food importer/food distributor. Applications for registration should be made in the name of an individual, an authorized partner of a partnership or a body corporate and must be made with the prescribed form in Appendix I. Application forms can also be obtained from our website (http://www.foodsafetyord.gov.hk), or from the following offices of the Center for Food Safety –


(a) 43rd Floor, Queensway Government Offices, 66 Queensway, Hong Kong;

(b) Room 119, 1/F, 258 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.


According to the Ordinance, the application for registration must identify the main food category and food classification as listed in Schedule 2 of the Ordinance of all food imported by the establishment (in the case of a food importer) or supplied wholesale by the establishment (in the case of a food distributor). The application must also include or be accompanied by any documentation or information reasonably requested by DFEH in order to consider the application.


The completed application form must be submitted in person or by post to the Food Importer/Distributor Registration and Import Licensing Office, Room 119, 1/F, 258 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong or fax to 2156 1015, together with copies of valid Business Registration Certificate / Hong Kong Identity Card / other identification documents (e.g. Certificate of Incorporation) for verification. Applications may also be submitted electronically, which must be digitally signed.


According to the Ordinance, the applicant will be assigned a registration number. Registration is valid for 3 years and is renewable.


Exempt from Registration


For food importers/food distributors who are already registered or licensed under other Ordinances, they will be exempted from the registration requirement as a trade facilitation measure. These food importers/food distributors include -


(a) the holder of the permission under section 30 of the Food Business Regulation (Cap. 132X);


(b) the licensee of a licence under Part IV of the Food Business Regulation (Cap. 132X);


(c) the licensee of a licence under Part III of the Frozen Confections Regulation (Cap. 132AC);


(d) the licensee of a licence under Part II of the Hawker Regulation (Cap. 132AI);


(e) the licensee of a licence under Part III of the Milk Regulation (Cap. 132AQ);


(f) the licensee of a licence under the Offensive Trades Regulation (Cap. 132AX);


(g) the licensee of a licence under Part II of the Slaughterhouses Regulation (Cap. 132BU);


(h) the registered stockholder of a reserved commodity under regulation 13 of the Reserved Commodities (Control of Imports, Exports and Reserve Stocks) Regulations (Cap. 296A);


(i) the holder of a licence under section 8 or a permit under section 14 of the Marine Fish Culture Ordinance (Cap. 353); and


(j) the certificated owner of a vessel licensed under the Merchant Shipping (Local Vessels) (Certification and Licensing) Regulation (Cap. 548D) in respect of a Class III vessel.


Fee


Applicants will be registered as a Food Importer/Food Distributor upon payment of a registration fee, currently $195 for 3 years.


Importers Applying for Import Licenses for Importing Frozen Meat, Chilled Meat, Frozen Poultry and Chilled Poultry into Hong Kong


Statutory Requirements


According to the Import and Export Ordinance (Cap. 60), an import license is required to import frozen meat, chilled meat, frozen poultry or chilled poultry. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department is the designated agency for issuing import licenses for these commodities.


Meat includes beef, mutton, pork, veal or lamb, and the offal of any animal from which such meat is derived. Poultry includes domestic fowl, duck, goose or turkey carcasses or any part of such carcasses, and any part of such birds that may be eaten or used in the preparation of food.


Application Procedure


Importers of frozen meat, chilled meat, frozen poultry or chilled poultry must apply for an import license from the Food Importer / Distributor Registration and Import Licensing Office of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department at Room 119, 1/F, 258 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.


Each consignment of frozen meat, chilled meat, frozen poultry and chilled poultry must be accompanied by an import permit. License applications must be supported by a valid health certificate covering the consignment issued by a recognized issuing entity of the exporting country or by special approval from the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene.


(a) Online Application


Traders who have opened a user account on the Food Trader Portal (FTP) can submit import license applications online 24 hours a day at the FTP website www.ftp.cfs.gov.hk. After approval, the import license will be sent to the applicant's FTP account.


(b) Paper Format Application


The completed application form (Form No. FEHB 284) should be submitted to the Food Importer / Distributor Registration and Import Licensing Office (hand submission only). The Food Importer / Distributor Registration and Import Licensing Office will issue an acknowledgment slip to the applicant upon receipt of the license application. The applicant must present the acknowledgment slip when collecting the license.


Import permits for frozen meat, chilled meat, frozen poultry and chilled poultry will only be issued to importers registered under the Registration Scheme for Food Importers and Food Distributors (the scheme) or exempted food traders (food import traders or food distributors) under the Food Safety Ordinance and are already registered or licensed under other Ordinance set out in Schedule 1 to the Ordinance. Therefore, if an importing company intends to import meat and poultry, it should first register with the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene under the Food Safety Ordinance. For more details on the scheme and registration procedures, please refer to the "Guide to the Registration Scheme for Food Importers and Food Distributors" on the designated website (www.foodsafetyord.gov.hk).


When the application is approved, the license will be issued to the importer. Owners of vessels, aircraft or vehicles engaged in the importation of meat or poultry must submit the import permit together with the manifest to the Trade and Industry Department within 14 days of import of the food.


License Validity


Import permits are usually only valid for one shipment and are valid for 6 weeks from the date of issue.


Cold Storage Registration


The cold storages listed in Appendix I licensed by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department are automatically registered as cold storages for imported meat and poultry. Registered importers who import frozen/chilled meat and poultry for their food business licensed by the Department may register their licensed food business premises as cold storage for imported meat and poultry. The registration details of the cold storage are set out in the registration form in Appendix II.


Fee


The applicant does not need to pay any fee for the import license.


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For professional advice related to the registration requirement, please contact Bestar.



APPLICATION FORM FOR REGISTRATION
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