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  • Writer's pictureNady Mayifuila

Exporting to the United States: Key questions to consider

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

Exporting to the USA - Key Questions MAYESQ MAY2019
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May 2019 (Updated May 2021)

Exporting to a foreign market can be a great way to grow your business. However, export regulations are often very stringent, especially in the United States. Potential exporters must ask themselves the right questions in order to adequately prepare their export project for this large and promising market.

First and foremost, the exporter who plans to export her products to the United States must ensure that they are authorized for import. One should know the potential offered by the target market. In addition, the exporter should familiarize herself with the regulations and special requirements for the import of the products selected.

Importing into the United States is governed by a variety of overlapping federal and state regulations that involve multiple federal and state agencies under different government departments. This article will focus on food exporting.

I. General considerations

Export plan

To increase chances of success, it is recommended to prepare an export plan. In general, this will describe how the investor intends to organize his export activities. In particular, it should contain: an analysis of the products to be exported to determine whether it is suitable for the market, a market study, a marketing plan on the market penetration strategy, a legal analysis that will also address the regulatory requirements for importing into the United States, logistical considerations, as well as a financial plan.

Competent regulatory authorities

The main regulatory authorities responsible for importing food products into the United States are: the Federal Food Regulatory Agency of the Department of Health ("FDA"), the Federal Department of Agriculture ("USDA"), as well as the Federal Customs Agency ("CBP").

  • The FDA establishes and enforces standards relating to the nature and quality of several import goods, including food products. It has jurisdiction over all foods, with the exception of most meat and poultry products, & beers, wines and spirits. All shipments of goods that are under the jurisdiction of the FDA are reviewed by it and must meet the same requirements as local American goods. The FDA decides whether foreign goods can enter U.S. commerce and may be refused entry if they do not meet the requirements.

  • The USDA, along with the FDA, is responsible for assessing the admissibility of various food products imported into the United States.

  • CBP monitors the entry into the United States of all products, food and other. All goods to be exported to the United States must be reported to CBP. CBP refers to the FDA for all goods under the jurisdiction of the latter.

Registration requirement

Food production, packaging, and storage facilities - including foreign food manufacturers and / or distributors - under FDA jurisdiction must register with the FDA before their products is admitted to the United States.

Prior import Notice (“PN”)

The FDA, must receive electronically a prior notice of foods imported or proposed for import into the United States.

All commercial imports of food products require the filing of a PN with the FDA and, if the products contain meat, eggs, milk, poultry or other animal products, permits, health certificates and / or other country-specific certifications may be required.

CBP will not release food shipments without proof that the PN has been filed with the FDA. Therefore, it is imperative that the PN reference number be submitted to CBP along with the shipping documents.


All food exported to the United States must be labeled in accordance with applicable regulations. It should be noted, however, that the FDA does not pre-approve labels. Exported products must meet the same labeling requirements as domestically produced products.

Certain products, including cooked foods, seafood, canned and packaged products, must have labeling that indicates the country of origin, ingredients and nutritional information.

Food manufacturers are responsible for developing labels that meet legal food labeling requirements. All labeling of food products regulated by the FDA must be truthful and not misleading.

Freight forwarders and customs brokers

There are a multitude of documents that must be completed to ship products to the United States. Usually, however, the investor does not accomplish this task on her own - exporters generally rely on experienced freight forwarders and customs brokers who will take care of the various administrative procedures, including preparing and lodging the necessary customs declarations, organizing the payment of duty, take steps to release goods from the custody of CBP.

The success of a business in one market is not necessarily guaranteed in another. It is crucial that the potential exporter is aware of the cultural, socio-economic and legal differences of the coveted market. It is imperative that she surrounds herself with good local partners, in particular to develop a good marketing strategy that will allow her to correctly identify target customers and to reach them effectively. One or more trips on the ground are encouraged, in particular to establish and start building a network of partners and obtain information from various experts.

A lawyer can help locate and connect the exporter with a number of reliable potential partners, including experienced customs brokers, essential for any successful export project. The services of a lawyer will be essential to avoid certain problems and / or solve them.



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