One of the biggest benefits of a global marketplace is the opportunity to introduce new products to your home market. Do you often come across wonderful food or cosmetic products overseas that you believe South Africans would enjoy? If you have identified a potentially lucrative business opportunity, it is possible to import those products. However, make sure the products adhere to South African labelling requirements as set out in the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act (Act 54 of 1972) and the various amendments to the Act. If the goods arrive at Customs with inadequate labelling, Customs will block the goods. The above mentioned Act is easily accessible online.
The most recent amendment – Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act: Regulations: Labelling, advertising and composition of cosmetics – was published in December 2017, closed for comment in March 2018 and currently awaits promulgation. The amendment specifically addresses labelling requirements for cosmetics. Before this amendment, the South African cosmetics industry was self-regulated by an independent body known as the Cosmetics Toiletry & Fragrance Association of South Africa (CTFA). The amendment aims to bring greater transparency to the cosmetics industry, and equip consumers to make informed choices.
Here is a summary of some of the most important labelling requirements set out in the Act:
The product label must provide the following information:
Manufacturer, packer, or distributor name and street address
One of the following statements: “Product of [insert country of origin]” if all ingredients are from that country, or “Produced in [insert country of origin]” if the ingredients used are from a different country than the country in which the products were manufactured.
Product size or weight
List of ingredients with the word “Ingredients” at the start of the list
Additional labelling requirements:
Labels must be in English
The ingredients list must include the names of any preservatives or colourants used. The preservative or colourant’s name or number can be used, but the number is optional.
Nutritional tables must appear on the label if the product makes a nutritional claim such as “vitamin enriched” or “high in iron”. The table must provide the nutrient quantities per serving, or per container size. All nutrient quantities must be listed in Standard International (SI) units.
Any product accompanied by healing or medicinal claims must be registered at the Medical Control Council (MCC).
Any product accompanied by slimming or muscle enhancement claims must be registered at the MCC.
No misleading claims may be present on the labels.
Products may not contain any banned ingredients such as hydroquinone (a skin lightener).
Note: Additional proposed labelling and product claim requirements for cosmetics are detailed in sections 8 and 9 of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act: Regulations: Labelling, advertising and composition of cosmetics amendment. Download the proposed amendment here.
What if I’ve already imported the product?
If you’ve already imported a food or cosmetic product with an incorrect label, don’t despair. You can print a stick-on label containing the correct details and stick it over the original label (you may have seen this implemented on foreign goods in your local grocery store). If you do not print stick-on labels, the other options are to a) return the products to the supplier, or b) grant permission for the products to be destroyed.
Make sure that you familiarise yourself with the basic requirements of the Act before importing your products. Remember – preparation and adequate research is one of the keys to importing success.
If you require any assistance, or would like to access more resources on importing, visit our Tools & Calculators page, or give our friendly consultants a call on 0861 0 TRADE (87233).