Most paper cups available on the Chinese market would not meet the new national standard, which comes into effect on June 1, according to industry insiders.
The country's first regulation on disposable cups will focus on raw materials, additives and printed patterns, and is aimed at boosting consumer safety.
However, as the new rule does not include details on any penalties for offenders, experts predicted on Monday that the standard is unlikely to have a major impact in the short-term.
"Most cups, not only those served at small, roadside restaurants, but also those provided by big-name catering companies, will be substandard once the national standard comes into force," said Dong Jinshi, executive vice-president of the International Food Packaging Institute in Beijing.
The regulation will require a great number of products to be taken off the shelves, he said, but without enforcement people will continue to be "left with no choice but to use cups that may be hazardous to their health".
Among the biggest changes in the standard, issued by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and the Standardization Administration, is the restrictions on printing.
Starting next month, colored patterns on paper cups cannot be within 15 millimeters from the lip or 10 millimeters from the bottom.
This, Dong said, is to prevent the oil or ink used to make the pattern from contaminating the inside of another cup when they are stacked.
"Companies tend to brand disposable cups with gaudy, colorful prints," Dong said. "However, it's very easy for the customers to ingest the ink while drinking if the pattern is too close to the top."
He said most pattern prints contain benzene, which ingested over time can cause cancer and leukemia.
Bao Xinchun, sales manager for Beijing Heyi Packing Equipment, which supplies big-name brands like Subway, Holiland and Quanjude, said catering companies have already started consulting him over the new regulations.
However, he expects to see few of them make drastic changes to their cups in the near future.
"Most patterns printed on paper cups for the catering industry would fail to meet the new standard," he said.
"But companies will be concerned that it might influence their business if they all of a sudden change the patterns that they have been using for years, especially for the catering companies, who need to attract customers.
"Unless authorities come up with a penalty for those who violate the rules, I don't think it's possible or practical for firms to have their patterns wiped off or altered."
In addition to the limit on patterns, the standard also imposes requirements on raw materials and bans disposable cups from being made from recycled materials.
Cups with a soft texture and tendency to leak will also be disqualified, while paper cups are required to be dustproof and mold-proof.
In the meantime, food packaging expert Dong said, consumers should avoid products with elaborate patterns.
"The more patterns on the cup the more possible it is for people to take the oil in and harm their health," he said. "It is highly suggested people purchase plain cups or those with little pattern on them."