In an endeavor to establish standardized practices for the issuance of catering services licenses and to reinforce the supervision and management of such services, the “Management Measures for Catering Services Licensing” have been formulated. These regulatory measures are founded on the provisions outlined by the “Food Safety Law of the People’s Republic of China,” the “Administrative Licensing Law of the People’s Republic of China,” as well as the regulations implementing the Food Safety Law, among other pertinent legal statutes. The aim is to preserve the orderly operation of catering services, safeguard consumer health, and ensure a regulated environment conducive to the flourishing of this sector.
Applicable to both organizations and individuals engaged in providing catering services, these measures establish a licensing system that mandates obtaining a “Catering Service License” and upholding food safety responsibilities as mandated by law. This system, however, is not applicable to street food vendors or those who provide semi-processed food products to catering service providers.
Chapter I General Provisions
In order to standardize catering service licensing work, strengthen supervision and management of catering services, maintain orderly catering service operations, protect consumer health, and in accordance with the provisions of laws and regulations such as the “People’s Republic of China Food Safety Law” (hereinafter referred to as “Food Safety Law”), the “People’s Republic of China Administrative Licensing Law” (hereinafter referred to as “Administrative Licensing Law”), and the “Implementation Regulations of the People’s Republic of China Food Safety Law” (hereinafter referred to as “Food Safety Law Implementation Regulations”), these Measures are formulated.
These Measures are applicable to units and individuals engaged in catering services (hereinafter referred to as “catering service providers”). They do not apply to food vendors and units and individuals that provide semi-processed foodstuffs to catering service providers. A licensing system is implemented for catering services where catering service providers must obtain a “Catering Service License” and bear the food safety responsibility according to the law. Collective meal delivery units are included within the management scope of catering service licensing.
The National Food and Drug Administration is responsible for the nationwide management of catering service licensing, and the local food and drug regulatory authorities at various levels are in charge of the administration within their respective jurisdictions.
Catering service licensing is classified according to the business form and size of the providers. The National Food and Drug Administration establishes inspection standards for the classification of catering services. The authorities responsible for acceptance and approval of “Catering Service License” applications are designated by the food and drug regulatory departments of the provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government.
In implementing catering service licensing, the food and drug regulatory authorities must comply with stipulated authorities, scopes, conditions, and procedures according to laws, regulations, and rules, following principles of openness, fairness, justice, and convenience to the public.
Food and drug regulatory authorities shall establish a system for managing information and archives related to catering service licensing and periodically publish a list of names of service providers who have obtained or had their licenses canceled.
Food and drug regulatory authorities shall enhance supervision and inspection of the implementation of catering service licenses.
Any unit or person has the right to report illegal behavior in the implementation of catering service licensing, and the food and drug regulatory authorities should verify and process such reports promptly.
Chapter II Application and Acceptance
Article 9 Applicants filing an application for catering service licensing with the food and drug supervisory authorities must satisfy the following basic conditions:
- Possess premises suitable for the handling of food raw materials and for processing, storage, and other such activities commensurate with the variety and quantity of food produced and supplied; maintain the cleanliness of these premises, and ensure they are at a prescribed distance from toxic, harmful locations, and other sources of pollution.
- Have operational equipment or facilities appropriate for the variety and quantity of food produced and supplied, including the corresponding facilities for disinfection, changing clothes, hand-washing, lighting, ventilation, refrigeration, dustproofing, fly and rodent control, and facilities for washing and disposing of wastewater, garbage, and other refuse.
- Employ a sufficient number of food safety management personnel who have undergone food safety training and meet relevant qualifications, as well as enact food safety regulations corresponding to the scale of the operation.
- Maintain a reasonable layout and processing flow to prevent cross-contamination between food to be processed and food ready-to-eat, raw materials and finished products, and avoid contact of food with toxic substances and impurities.
- Fulfill other requirements as prescribed by the National Food and Drug Administration or food and drug supervisory departments of the provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities.
The qualifications for food safety management personnel and the related requirements for food safety training shall be prescribed by the National Food and Drug Administration.
In applying for a “Catering Service License,” the following documents must be submitted:
- The Catering Service License application form;
- Proof of name pre-approval or a copy of the business license if engaged in other business activities;
- Schematic diagrams of the layout, processing flow, and sanitary facilities of the catering service premises and equipment;
- Identification of the legal representative (person in charge or owner), and materials explaining that they do not fall under the situations described in Articles 36 and 37 of these Measures;
- Proof that food safety management personnel meet the conditions stipulated in Article 9 of these Measures;
- Regulations guaranteeing food safety;
- Other documents required by the National Food and Drug Administration or the food and drug supervisory departments of the provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities.
The applicant must ensure that the materials submitted are accurate and complete, and the applicant is responsible for the authenticity of these materials.
The Food and Drug Supervisory Authority shall handle the application for catering service licenses submitted by applicants according to the “Administrative Licensing Law” as follows:
- If the application does not require a catering service license according to law, or it is not within the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Supervisory Authority according to law, the Authority shall immediately inform the applicant of the reasons for not accepting the application;
- If there are correctable errors present in the application materials, the applicant shall be allowed to make corrections on the spot and shall confirm the corrected content by signature;
- If the application materials are incomplete or do not meet the statutory form, the Authority must, on the spot or within five working days, inform the applicant once of all the contents that need to be corrected. If the Authority fails to inform within the period, the application shall be deemed accepted upon receipt of the materials；
- If the matter of the application falls within the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Supervisory Authority and the application materials are complete and comply with the statutory form, a decision to accept the application shall be made.
Chapter Three: Review and Decision
After accepting the application materials submitted by applicants, the Food and Drug Supervisory Authority shall review the relevant documents as stipulated in Article 10 of these measures and carry out on-site inspections of the applicant’s catering service premises. Higher-level Food and Drug Supervisory Authorities that have accepted applications for catering service licenses may delegate on-site inspections to subordinate levels.
The Food and Drug Supervisory Authority shall, based on the application materials and the results of the on-site inspection, make decisions to grant administrative licenses to those who meet the criteria. For those who do not meet the required conditions, a decision to deny the administrative license should be made and the reasons for denial should be provided in writing. Applicants should also be informed of their rights to legally request administrative reconsideration or to initiate administrative litigation.
The Food and Drug Supervisory Authority should make an administrative license decision within 20 working days from the date of acceptance of the application. If there is a special reason to extend the licensing period, it can be extended by an additional 10 working days with the approval of the head of the authority, and the reason for the extension must be communicated to the applicant.
If the Food and Drug Supervisory Authority decides to grant an administrative license, it should issue the “Catering Service License” to the applicant within 10 working days from the date of the decision.
For completed catering service licensing matters, the Food and Drug Supervisory Authority should timely file the relevant licensing documents.
Chapter Four: Changes, Continuation, Reissue, and Cancellation
In case of changes in the name, legal representative, person-in-charge, owner, or address of the catering service provider (without the actual place of business changing), an application for change of the recorded content in the “Catering Service License” must be submitted to the original issuing authority, along with the relevant approval documents issued by the competent authorities.
If changes are needed to be made to the license category, notes, layout process, or main sanitary facilities of the catering service provider, an application for changes to the “Catering Service License” should be submitted to the original issuing authority. The issuing authority should focus on reviewing the contents for which changes have been applied.
According to the provisions of the first and second clauses of this article, if the Food and Drug Supervisory Authority permits the change of the recorded content of the “Catering Service License” or processes the change procedure, a new “Catering Service License” shall be issued, with the original license number and validity period remaining unchanged.
If a catering service provider needs to extend the “Catering Service License,” they should submit a written application for extension to the original issuing authority 30 days before the expiration of the license. If the application for extension is submitted late, it shall be processed as a new application for the “Catering Service License.”
The following documents should be provided for the extension of the “Catering Service License”: (i) Application form for the extension of the “Catering Service License”; (ii) A photocopy of the original “Catering Service License”; (iii) Explanatory materials regarding changes or no changes to the business site, layout process, sanitary facilities, etc., of the original “Catering Service License”; (iv) Other materials stipulated by the Food and Drug Supervisory Authority of the province, autonomous region, or directly-administered municipality.
After accepting the application for extension of the “Catering Service License,” the original issuing authority should focus on reviewing whether there are changes to the original licensed operating location, layout, sanitary facilities, etc., and whether these comply with the provisions of Article 9 of these measures. If the extension is granted, a new “Catering Service License” shall be issued with the same license number as the original.
The procedures for changing and extending the “Catering Service License” shall be executed in accordance with the provisions of Chapter Two and Chapter Three of these measures.
When collecting the new “Catering Service License” after changes or extensions, the catering service provider should return the original license to the issuing authority.
If a catering service provider loses the “Catering Service License,” they must publicly declare the loss within 60 days after the loss and apply for a reissue from the original issuing authority. If the “Catering Service License” is damaged, the provider should apply for a reissue from the original issuing authority with the damaged original license.
The issuing authority should cancel the “Catering Service License” according to the law in the following cases:
- If the “Catering Service License” has expired without application for extension, or the extension application was not approved;
- If the catering service provider legally terminates operations;
- If the “Catering Service License” is legally revoked, withdrawn, or suspended;
- If the catering service provider voluntarily applies for the cancellation of the license;
- Other circumstances where the “Catering Service License” should be canceled according to law.
If the “Catering Service License” is canceled, the original license holder should promptly return the original “Catering Service License” to the Food and Drug Supervisory Authority. The Food and Drug Supervision Department should timely complete the relevant registration work for the cancellation of the “Catering Service License.”
Chapter Five: Management of the License
The “Catering Service License” should specify the unit name, address, legal representative, type, remarks, license number, issuing authority (with the official seal), issue date, and the validity period, among other contents.
The State Food and Drug Administration uniformly stipulates the design of the “Catering Service License.”
The format of the license number is abbreviation of province, autonomous region, or directly-administered municipality + symbol for catering license + 4-digit year + 6-digit administrative regional code + 6-digit administrative region issuance order number.
The “Catering Service License” is valid for three years. For those temporarily engaged in catering service activities, the “Catering Service License” is valid for no more than six months.
If the same catering service provider operates at different locations or venues, a “Catering Service License” must be obtained separately for each site. If the location or site of the catering service operation changes, a new “Catering Service License” should be applied.
The “Catering Service License” obtained by the catering service provider cannot be transferred, altered, lent, resold, or rented. The catering service provider must operate within the scope of the license according to law and must display the “Catering Service License” in a prominent place at the dining site.
Chapter Six: Supervision and Inspection
The senior food and drug supervisory authorities shall order the junior food and drug supervisory departments to correct any discovered violations of these Measures in the licensing process for catering services, or they shall correct the violations directly.
Food and drug supervisory departments and their staff shall actively accept supervision from catering service providers as well as the public when performing their duties in catering service licensing. Upon receiving reports of violations concerning the implementation of catering service licenses, the departments should promptly verify the facts. If the claims are substantiated, immediate correction should be initiated.
If food and drug supervisory departments and their staff fail to comply with the provisions of these Measures when implementing catering service licensing, the supervisory authorities at the higher level shall order a correction within a specified time, and circulate a notice of criticism. Those responsible may face administrative penalties, including receiving disciplinary education, being removed from enforcement positions, or having their law enforcement qualifications revoked.
When pursuing administrative responsibilities of relevant personnel, the following principles should apply: (i) If an applicant does not meet the criteria for catering service licensing, and the person in charge endorses that they actually do meet the requirements, the person in charge shall bear administrative responsibility; (ii) If the person in charge believes the applicant does not meet licensing requirements, yet the senior official still approves the issuance of a “Catering Service License,” administrative responsibility shall fall upon the senior official; (iii) If both the person in charge and the senior officials are at fault, the senior official shall bear the primary administrative responsibility.
The food and drug supervisory department that decided to issue a “Catering Service License,” or its upper-level department, can revoke the license in any of the following situations:
- If staff members of the food and drug supervisory department misuse their authority, are negligent in their duties, and thus grant a “Catering Service License” to an applicant who does not meet the conditions;
- If the staff of the food and drug supervisory department exceed their legal authority and grant a “Catering Service License”;
- If the staff of the food and drug supervisory department violates legal procedures while issuing a “Catering Service License”;
- Other situations in which the issued “Catering Service License” can be revoked according to the law.
If the Food and Drug Supervisory Department revokes the “Catering Service License” following the aforementioned provisions and this action results in damage to the legal rights and interests of catering service providers, compensation should be made according to the law.
Chapter Seven： Legal Liabilities
If an applicant conceals relevant situations or provides false materials, the regulatory authority shall not accept or approve their application and issue a warning; the applicant shall not reapply for a catering service license within one year.
If a person responsible for a catering service provider has their license revoked, they shall not engage in catering service management work for five years from the decision date. …
Chapter Eight: Supplementary Provisions
Definitions of Terms Used in These Measures:
- “Catering Service” refers to service activities that provide food as well as a location and facilities for consumption to consumers, through immediate cooking and processing, commercial sales, and service labor.
- “Business Premises” refers to places directly or indirectly related to food processing and management, including areas for food processing and dining.
- “Business Format of Catering Service Providers” refers to various operational forms of catering services, including restaurants, fast food establishments, snack bars, drink shops, cafeterias, etc.
- “Collective Meal Delivery Units” refers to units that, according to the service recipients’ order requirements, process and deliver food centrally but do not provide a dining location.
Supervision and management of catering service activities within the boundary of national ports of entry and exit are implemented by the entry-exit inspection and quarantine agencies in accordance with the “Food Safety Law of the People’s Republic of China,” the “Frontier Health and Quarantine Law of the People’s Republic of China,” and relevant administrative regulations.
The management of catering services permits during railway operations shall refer to these measures.
As per the “Food Safety Law,” the specific management methods for street food vendors shall be legislated by the People’s Congress standing committees of the provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government.
The food and drug regulatory departments of provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government may formulate implementation rules based on the provisions of these Measures in accordance with local actual conditions.
These Measures shall come into force on May 1, 2010. The “Food Hygiene License Management Measures” issued by the Ministry of Health on December 15, 2005, are hereby repealed. Catering service providers that have obtained a “Food Hygiene License” before the implementation of these Measures may continue to use their license within its validity period.
Disclaimer: The regulation of the law in China is translated by GWBMA for reference only. There may be different interpretations of the Chinese version.