Federal Agencies Publish “Good Importer Practices”

Jan 14, 2009   

On January 12, 2009, the Interagency Working Group on Import Safety published draft guidance for industry entitled “Good Importer Practices.” The working group is comprised of the U. S. Departments of Health and Human Services (Food and Drug Administration), Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, and Transportation and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The Working Group organized the guidance into four broad “guiding principles”:

– establishing a product safety management program;
– knowing the product and applicable U.S. requirements;
– verifying product and firm compliance (throughout supply chain and life cycle); and
– taking corrective and preventive action (when necessary).

These principles give importers a roadmap they can follow to ensure that the products they import, and the processes they use to import those products, comply with myriad U.S. statutes and regulations. While the document is not a “how to” guide “ with steps that match up to specific code citations “ the guidance is an indispensible tool for management, which they can use to make sure that they are asking the right questions, and establishing the right programs and processes, for regulatory compliance.

The draft guidance encourages importers to focus on the life cycle of an imported product; for example, from growing and harvesting, to processing, packing, transporting, and distributing. At each step, importers should consider how to implement controls to help decrease the risk that the product could cause harm to people, animals, or the environment. In doing so, importers will help ensure overall regulatory compliance.

The guidance is also important for third-parties in the import process, such as consolidators, shippers, brokers and distributors. In the current regulatory environment, in which the government is focusing on everyones role in the security and safety of imports (and penalizing those who break the rules), even these third-parties should have processes in place to make sure that the importers with whom they work are complying with government rules and regulations.

Following this guidance laid out by the government is essential for all U.S. importers. If you dont follow the roadmap, you may soon be lost.

The complete “Draft Guidance for Industry Good Importer Practices” can be found here.

Let Fuerst Ittleman help you with your roadmap for regulatory compliance. Our attorneys have years of experience in designing programs, policies and procedures to help importers stay on the right path and avoid problems with regulators. Contact us at 305-350-5690 or contact@fidjlaw.com.