How To Import Produce Products Into The US

Your how-to guide on fresh fruits and vegetable imports into the US

If you are importing fresh produce items such as bananas, kiwis, grapes, mangoes and melons etc. into the US, you must know what government parties are involved, what regulations must be followed, and the fundamental aspects of produce importing.

Parties Involved:

  • US Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Customs Broker
  • Carrier

Main Regulations:

Import Fundamentals:

  • You will be acting as the Importer of Record. Therefore, you are the party ultimately responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the import declaration; as well as, the payment of applicable duties and taxes into the US
  • Duty and tax must be paid upon importation
  • The rate of duty is determined by the tariff of the commodity being imported, the value of the goods and, the origin of the goods
  • Certain import documentation is required to be presented to the border services officer at the port of entry
  • Your import may be subject to a customs review, inspection or audit prior to, at the time of, or after the importation. Additional fees may be levied by the Government of the US for these services
  • You are required to keep your import records for five years following the date of import and can be audited by Customs at any point during this time

FAQ: Produce Imports

What Is FSMA?
The Food Safety Modernization Act is regulated by the FDA and is meant to make sure that food in the US commerce is safe for consumption and can be tracked. FSMA aims to ensure the US food supply is safe by shifting the focus to preventing contamination of the food supply, rather than responding to it

All domestic and non-domestic food suppliers must adhere to the guidelines in FSMA. Many other regulations are governed by FSMA including the Foreign Supplier Verification Program and Prior Notice.
What Is Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP)?

The final rule requires that importers perform certain risk-based activities to verify that food imported into the United States has been produced in a manner that meets applicable US safety standards. Importers must identify the FSVP party on their declaration.

For more information on FSVP please visit the FDA website.
How Does The Produce Safety Rule Apply To Me?

The Produce Safety Rule is one of seven rules that were introduced under FSMA. This rule focuses on growing and handling conditions aimed at ensuring that food is safe. This rule set the standards for water quality, application of biological solid amendments such as fertilizer, sanitation of equipment, tools, and buildings, as well as health and hygiene training for produce handlers.

For further government-issued guidance see here.
What Is A FDA Registration Number And How Do I Get One?

Both foreign and domestic facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food for human or animal consumption are required to register with the FDA as part of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. Registration must be complete and an 11 digit FDA registration number issued by FDA before you are able to import your goods into the US. FDA registration numbers are specific to a physical location and you will need one for each different production facility.

An FDA registration number can be obtained electronically on FDA’s website.
What Is Prior Notice?

Prior notice is required for all food goods fit for human and animal consumption. This allows for FDA to more effectively target shipments for inspection by allowing a review of the goods submitted for clearance prior to the shipment arriving at the border. Each mode of transportation requires a minimal amount of time prior to the entry hitting the border after submission of the prior notice, giving FDA the time needed to review the shipment.  Within the prior notice is where the FDA registration number is submitted to FDA, giving them access to view the producer of the goods as well.

For more on Prior Notice, please see the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C).
What Other Detailed Information Would Have To Be Supplied For USDA?

At minimum, USDA will require the genus, species, and country of growth of your produce in order for them to determine the appropriate requirements for import.

How Do I Know If My Product Requires A USDA Permit?

USDA regulates products differently based on the areas that they are grown and the pest or noxious weeds that are present in those areas. To determine if your product would require a permit for import, you would search your specific product name and the country of origin in the USDA FAVIAR manual. This will list the requirements, such as permits and treatments, that would be needed for the import of your goods.

If a permit is required, be sure to review the permit thoroughly once issued. Additional requirements for your product that are not found in FAVIAR may be listed on the permit itself.

For more information on USDA Permits please visit their website.

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