Think about your favorite meal. Whether it’s carne asada, red curry, or souvlaki, it probably includes some imported ingredients. Americans love eating foods from all over the world, making the US the perfect market for importing food.
Still, food is one of the most difficult things to import to the US. That’s because the US has stringent requirements for importing food. If you miss even one of the numerous requirements, your shipment could be banned from entering the country.
This shouldn’t stop you from starting a food import business. You can succeed if you take the time to research and prepare before diving in. These are some of the mistakes you should avoid as you’re undergoing the process of importing food to the US.
Planning on importing food to Canada? Don’t miss this guide.
1. Choosing the wrong product
Not every imported food can be successful in the US. The market is already flooded with certain imported foods in some regions of the country. You’ll need to undercut prices if you want to import the same products. Other foods are virtually nonexistent in the US, but there might not be a sufficient demand for them.
As part of your import plan, you need to outline exactly which products you’re importing and from where. Perform a market analysis to determine which products are most likely to do well in your region. If you already have a country in mind, consider which popular food products are not readily available in the US.
2. Not getting the right permits
When you’re importing food to the US, you usually don’t need a special permit. For certain products, however, you will need to obtain a special permit from a specific government office. This is true for fruits and vegetables, certain dairy products, meat, and seafood. Check the requirements for specific permits here.
Although you may not need to get a special permit to import your food product, there are other requirements you need to meet. Here are some of the documents you’re required to have when importing:
- Bill of Lading: functions as a contract regarding the shipment
- Commercial invoice: includes several details about the shipment, including country of origin, date, valuation, and HTS code
- Packing list: lists the quantity and dimensions of all products in the shipment
- Entry summary: compiles information from the above documents for US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)
3. Submitting your Prior Notice too late
Per US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, you need to file a Prior Notice electronically whenever you’re importing food. It must be submitted at least 2 hours before your goods arrive at their port of destination. The earlier you submit it, the better. If you’re late, you might be required to pay fines or your shipment will be delayed.
Every Prior Notice includes the following information:
- The country of production
- The expected location, date, and time the shipment will arrive
- Details about the carrier, shipper, and method of transportation
- The product’s FDA Product Code
4. Not complying with labeling requirements
If your foreign supplier doesn’t provide an FDA-compliant label, you’ll be required to create one for your product. Note that certain products don’t require a label, such as raw vegetables, fish, and other products that aren’t packaged.
Make sure to include the following information on your label:
- The product’s country of origin
- An English translation of any foreign language text on the packaging
- The domestic distributor’s name and address
5. Failing to register your foreign manufacturer
Not registering your foreign manufacturer could put you in a sticky situation with the FDA like these California and Texas food firms. They did not keep tabs on their foreign suppliers and received warning letters from the FDA due to these import violations.
Once you register your foreign manufacturer with the FDA, save your proof of registration so you can show it to CBP with your other import documents. That way, it’s clear that your foreign manufacturer is following all of the regulations that ensure your food products are equivalent to those found in the US.
6. Not packaging the food properly
The type of packaging you’ll use depends on which product you’re importing. There is a lot more flexibility when it comes to shipping cookies, for example, than when it comes to shipping meat. Having the wrong packaging for meat could cause it to spoil, particularly if it’s held up at the border for any length of time.
You might even be able to find an “intelligent packaging” option that uses technology to monitor the condition of the food. This would be an extra cost, but it can guarantee the safety of your customers and keep you from losing your shipment due to conditions outside of your control.
7. Not hiring a customs broker
Because it’s so complicated to import food to the US, it’s necessary to hire a customs broker to help you with the paperwork and tariff payments. A customs broker is an expert on the rules and regulations surrounding the import-export process. Without a customs broker, you could make a costly mistake that completely sinks your company.
When it comes to importing food to the US, BorderBuddy is the experienced customs broker you’ve been looking for. No matter what kind of food you want to import, we can make the process smooth for your business. Give us a call today.