Regulations Governing Seafood Import and Licensing
While the U.S. government does not issue licenses for the seafood import from India and other countries, you will still be required to comply with federal regulations governing the import and export of these food products. Following a few simple steps can allow importers to stay within the letter of the law when bringing frozen shrimp and other seafood products into the United States. Here are some key points to remember when planning to do seafood import into the USA.
The Annual Certification of Shrimp-Harvesting Nations
Each year, the U.S. Department of State certifies specific nations to export wild-caught shrimp to the United States. This certification is based on their fishing practices in relation to sea turtles. Under section 609 of Public Law 101-162, wild-caught shrimp can only be imported from nations that have a program in place to protect sea turtles or that fish in a way that does not pose a risk to these turtles. Checking this list each year is essential to stay on the right side of federal regulations regarding the import of wild-caught shrimp into the U.S.
Shrimp grown in farms are not subject to the same regulations and can be imported without checking the Department of State certification list. Nearly 94 percent of all the shrimp consumed in the U.S. comes from foreign sources in countries like Thailand, India and Indonesia. Most of this shrimp is frozen at the point of origin to ensure maximum freshness when it arrives in the United States.
Several Agencies Are Involved
Seafood imports are governed by a few different government agencies. The two most important of these oversight agencies to do seafood import are the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Form DS-2031 must be filed with Customs and Border Protection for all imports of shrimp into the United States. The FDA enforces several other regulations regarding the importation of all types of seafood into the USA. Working with a qualified seafood agent can often provide you with added help in navigating the legal requirements of the FDA and other federal agencies.
The Role of the FDA
Before you can begin importing seafood, you must register your facilities and processing sites with the FDA. This process can be completed online or by mail and is free of charge. The FDA also requires compliance with its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) regulations to prevent contamination and to monitor the treatment of your seafood imports from their point of origin throughout shipping and processing to make sure that your shrimp and seafood are healthy and wholesome for your customers. HACCP regulations also require that all procedures and inspections are documented and retained for a reasonable amount of time to allow the FDA to review these records if required. Your company should also notify the FDA either in writing or online of shipments arriving in the USA to allow for inspection of these seafood products.
The FDA has developed a Seafood HACCP Video Series, designed to help the seafood industry and federal and state regulators better understand specific concepts described in FDA’s Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance. The series consists of 6 videos covering the following topics: Time-Temperature Indicators, Time and Temperature Controls during Unrefrigerated Processing, Secondary Processor Receiving and Storage Controls, Heat Process Validation, Primary Processor Scombrotoxin Controls – Overview and Testing at Receiving, and Primary Processor Scombrotoxin Controls – Harvest Vessel Records.
The FDA has also developed an online learning module to help the seafood industry ensure the proper labeling of seafood products offered for sale in the U.S. marketplace.
To import products into the United States, you can contract the services of a customs broker (entry filer). Customs brokers are the only persons authorized by the tariff laws of the United States to act as agents for importers in the transaction of their customs business. Customs brokers are private individuals or firms licensed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection CBP to prepare and file the necessary customs entries, arrange for the payment of duties, take steps to effect the release of the goods in CBP custody, and otherwise represent their principals in customs matters.
FDA Import Alerts are issued whenever FDA determines that it already has sufficient evidence to conclude that exporter’s products appear to be adulterated, misbranded, or unapproved, and that therefore they may be refused admission. You can find the list of companies in “red list” by industry or by country in the FDA website. When you work with a good buying agent, they alert you if your seafood supplier is in the list or it ever gets into that list.
It is also essential to make sure that your company is properly licensed and in compliance with all applicable state and local regulations governing the import and export of seafood and the general operation of a business. Enlisting the help of an experienced seafood agent or buyer can often be a solid first step toward increased profitability and consistent compliance with all regulations relevant to your seafood import operations.
Here are some other resources to help you with with your seafood business