This paper systematically investigated the impact of foreign direct investment (FDI) on Chinese food firms’ total factor productivity (TFP) by using the firm-level census data between 1998 and 2007 (174,539 sample food firms). We tested for “own-plant” effects, intra-industry effects, regional effects and vertical effects. The results show that food firms’ foreign ownership has weakly positive or no impact on the productivity of invested firms. At the industry level, FDI generates adverse influences on domestic firms productivity in some sub food sectors. Further, mixed regional effects are observed in different sub food sectors and across investment with different origins. Finally, both positive backward and forward spillovers generated by FDI originating outside Hong Kong, Macaw and Taiwan (HMT) are observed, while HMT investment has negative vertical spillovers.