AFI Association of Food Industries

AFI Serving the U.S. Food Import Sector

The Power of Informed Compliance

Paul K. Jeka
Vice President, All-Ways Forwarding Int'l

As the AFI membership knows through the association’s ongoing advice to prepare for them, FSMA, FSVP compliance, regular importer Audits, VQIP participation, C-TPAT and Importer Security Filing enforcement are now upon us.

Many in the industry are scrambling to get up to speed with these regulations. If you have vendors or customers that are asking, “Why are we suddenly subject to these regulations,” you may want to advise them to join AFI.

Often, I hear, “We have never had this product held by USDA before.” As importers, you are considered the responsible party by U.S. Customs, USDA and FDA, regardless of what the Customs broker files on your behalf. Informed compliance is expected from each company considered an Importer of Record.

When we (the U.S. Customs Broker) are presented with entry documents and electronically file the entry and one single product is placed on USDA hold, the entire container or containers can be held at the pier for inspection. The free time clock is running and the demurrage fees are looming. How can you avoid these expensive and awkward situations?

The Solution Is Informed Compliance!

A U.S. Customs, USDA and FDA line review of all of your current imported items (including all of the proposed new items that your buyers may explore daily) should be readily on hand and routinely reviewed. CBP likes to see a complete listing of all your imported items available in one Excel file. The minimum amount of information expected to be included within these files are:

  • Importer of Record IRS#
  • Item #/SKU
  • Exact product description as listed on the retail or wholesale import label (manufacturing process flow charts, ingredient statements and copies of the labels should be available)
  • Actual manufacturer full name and address
  • Manufacturer MID #
  • Manufacturer FDA registration #
  • US FDA registration agent
  • FSVP Importer (All FSVP Importer required documentation should available by SKU)
  • HACCP reports for each SKU you import
  • U.S. HTS# & duty rates (you have to have supporting documentation to prove it)
  • USDA Permits, OGA Certificates, licenses and forms that may be required

Entry Documentation to Support Informed Compliance

Complete commercial invoices and packing lists should mirror each other. Importers should demand this from their suppliers as part of the purchase order agreement or letter of credit. The ocean and air freight bills of lading must also be perfectly aligned with the other entry documents. Your Customs Broker and import department contacts should also be listed as one of the notify parties. In the past, the industry was shy to disclose the freight charges; that’s no longer a real issue as the carriers are offering the same rates across the board by weight, volume and destination.

Beware of the DDP Shipments

Often suppliers offer desirable retail goods. Suddenly, you as the Importer of Record or the U.S. Customs Broker are contacted to import and deliver these items to the final destination into the U.S., without warning and usually outside of the compliance guidelines. This is a red-flag transaction. This type of pressure often occurs in conjunction with trade show. (Usually it is refrigerated, super urgent and arrives on a weekend.) If the supplier wants to ship you samples, your reply should be “no problem. Send it to me after you export it to the U.S. under your own U.S. Importer of Record number and have an acting U.S. Agent for FSVP compliance reasons.

Association of Food Industries: Serving the U.S. Food Import Trade Since 1906
3301 Route 66, Ste. 205, Bldg. C • Neptune, NJ 07753
(732) 922-3008 • Fax: (732) 922-3590 • •