Food industry in USA is famous for being highly dependent on the importations and, although this import arrangement is almost liberalized, it is upon the compliance with the sanitary and technical requirements. But, how strict these requirements are? We develop below the applicable law to export food to the United States.

Export Food to the United States – The FDA

All exported food must meet, at least, the same requirements as the food manufactured in the USA. These requirements are issued and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA regulates the entry of pharmaceutical products, vaccines, medical devices, cosmetics, biofuels, drugs and animal feed. Their European headquarter is in Brussels, nevertheless, all their procedures are centralized in the USA.

Depending on the product, we may also consider another body, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which regulates birds feed, meat or food containing more than a 2% of meat.

Basic Requirements

In recent decades, American consumers have changed their habits, they demand now healthy and nutritional food. Well-being is a primary factor when choosing food, people prefer natural, fat-free food and without added chemical substances. Also, there are new exigencies such as the environmental awareness and the chemical substances’ non-use.

In order to meet these market exigencies, some basic requirements should be met. Nevertheless, we have to point out that some requirements may change depending on the product nature (for instance, fruits, fresh vegetables, highly acid food, fishery products, etc.)

Basic requirements to export food to the United States are:

  • Safe
  • Microbial, chemical, pollution-free, etc.
  • Manufactured upon the best agricultural practices
  • Meet the legislation and the required administrative procedures
  • Labeled in an appropriate way

Bioterrorism acts law

This law arose aiming at avoiding being the target of arising terrorism acts through imported food. According to this law the following terms should be met:

  • Food facilities register: facilities where food are processed, packed or arranged should be registered with the FDA. Moreover, the FDA must be given advance notice on shipments of imported food, otherwise, they will not move on to the FDA’s electronic system

This registration is free, and you can do it on their web and an agent in the USA must be indicated. Furthermore, it has to be updated every two years and there is no need to create a new one unless the owner or the location of the facility has changed.

  • Record keeping: these records are needed for identifying the original source and the destination of food and are mandatory for manufacturers, processors, packers or those performing storage activities.

It is important to consider that this record applies to each and every facility not to corporations as a whole.

  • Administrative detention: the FDA is entitled to immediately stop any food considered as suspicious or threatening.

Export Food to the United States – Labelling

Companies must make sure that their products have the proper required label and it is important to bear in mind the specifications for both the front and the back label, as well as the exceptions arising from the different sizes of the packaging and the required texts.

Among the general requirements: the label should be written in English (It can be bilingual if all the information is in both languages), size must be given in the American metric system, and nutrition information must meet the “nutrition facts” format. Ingredients and colors must appear with their approved common name.

The mandatory information for every label of every product, divided between the main information and the information board, is: food identity, ingredients, company’s name and address, nutrition information, net capacity, allergen information and relevant information.

Permitted dyes and additives

Ingredients, additives and colorants that our products contain must be approved by the FDA. If an ingredient or an additive in our product is not within the list, its inclusion may be requested, but the process is long since analysis, laboratory testing and others are needed. Among the banned colorants we found: alkanet, calcium carbonate, carbon black, orchil lichen, ferric chloride, ferrous sulphate, and safflower.

Importing procedure

First of all, the importer presents a notification entry of the products in U.S. customs, body who notifies the FDA. This one determines if the shipment can be admitted and if it needs to be examined. If the FDA does not perform the inspection the appropriate tariffs are paid and the product can be commercialized in the USA.

If the FDA decides to inspect the provision, samples are taken to make tests and the responsible party must retain the shipment in a warehouse and keep it without any alterations until the FDA contacts this party. After the checking, if everything is in order, the shipment is released for its distribution once the tariffs are paid.

If the products do not meet the standards set, the FDA issues a detention and audience notice and the importer may request for the product reconditioning. If the product entry is refused, the importer is requested to re-export or destroy the product.