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Import Guidance for Food

Lemons, Import Requirements for Food

Importing food items into the United States involves a complex web of regulations managed primarily by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Below is a summarized overview of the requirements and the importation process.

1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Requirements:

Prior Notice:

Before food is imported into the U.S., the FDA must be given prior notice. This allows the FDA to schedule inspections when the food arrives.

Facility Registration:

1. The facility from where the food originates must be registered with the FDA unless an exception applies. This means that the manufacturer and the supplier must both be registered as a Food Facility Registration. This is required to be transmitted with the entry.

a. Please provide Food Facility Registration Numbers of both the Shipper and the Manufacturer prior to export from origin.

2. Importers must be registered with a DUNS number and comply with the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP). The DUNS number is transmitted with the entry.

a. Please provide the DUNS number for the IOR prior to export from origin.

3. Full details for the manufacturer, shipper, and importer must be provided prior to import to allow for customs broker to search all Import Alerts for occurrence on any Red List.

Food Labeling:

  • Must not be misleading.

  • Must include a statement of identity, net quantity of contents, nutrition labeling, ingredient list, and name/address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor.

  • Specific requirements apply for certain foods.

  • Please provide all details regarding the type of packaging, the method of treatment and processing of food, weights/dims, and all other packing details.

  • Please provide pictures of the label, the immediate container packaging, and the outer carton packaging if applicable

Food Adulteration and Misbranding:

Food must not be adulterated or misbranded. Adulterated foods could contain harmful ingredients or be prepared under unsanitary conditions. Misbranded foods might be labeled in a misleading way or not meet labeling standards.

Detention Without Physical Examination (DWPE):

If a food is suspected of not being in compliance, it may be subject to DWPE. This means the food cannot enter the U.S. until it's proven compliant.


2. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Requirements:

Entry Documentation:

  • CBP Form 3461: Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) Secure Data Portal. A document submitted for goods entering the U.S.

  • CBP Form 3461 ALT: for quota items.

  • CBP Form 3461: Continuous bond if goods are imported frequently.

  • Invoice: Describing the item, quantity, value, and other pertinent information.

  • Bill of Lading or Airway Bill: From the shipping company.

  • Packing List: If applicable.

  • Other Documents: Depending on the nature and origin of the product. For example, certain agricultural products might require a USDA permit.


Duties must be paid upon entry into the U.S. Rates depend on the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States.

Bond Requirement:

Importers must post a bond to cover potential duties, taxes, and charges.

Labeling and Marking Requirements:

Product must be properly marked with country of origin.


Overview of the Importation Process:

  1. Determine Eligibility: Ensure you're allowed to act as an importer by obtaining a CBP assigned number.

  2. Comply with other agencies' requirements: E.g., USDA for meat, poultry, or egg products.

  3. Arrange Shipping and Obtain Bill of Lading.

  4. Submit Prior Notice to the FDA: If importing food products.

  5. Complete CBP Entry Forms: Within 15 calendar days of the arrival of a shipment.

  6. Pay Duties: If required.

  7. Examination of Goods: CBP and/or FDA will examine the goods to ensure compliance.

  8. Goods Released: If all requirements are met and duties paid, goods are released.

Remember that hiring a licensed customs broker can simplify this process, but it's essential to remain informed about your responsibilities as an importer.

Finally, this overview is a guide. Regulations and procedures can change, and there may be specifics or nuances not covered here. Always refer to official sources and consider seeking legal counsel or professional guidance for specific situations.


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