Trade Talk Blog U
nderstanding and correctly following labeling requirements for imports can make the difference between successful shipments and costly rejections. Whether you are a seasoned importer or just getting started, knowing how labels should be applied to meet U.S. regulations when bringing goods into the country is imperative. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what information must appear on items entering the United States and other important label considerations. We’ll also provide insight into any special requirements concerning specific types of imported goods. Take a few moments to gain an invaluable understanding of U.S. import labeling standards before importing your next shipment!
What is a label for Customs purposes?
A label for customs purposes is a document attached to goods crossing international borders. The label contains important information about the shipment’s origin, destination, and other characteristics. It typically includes details such as the product’s name, description, quantity, country of origin, and Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code.
Labels are also used to classify items into categories based on their purpose or use. They help customs officers understand what type of product is being shipped and assess if any taxes or duties should be applied.
Additionally, labels provide information to ensure safe transit and that the goods meet all relevant health, safety, and environmental regulations.
What are the Acts that govern the labeling of imported goods?
A product’s label or markings must comply with regulations to be allowed entry into the United States. Products are regulated by The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) and Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulation (UPLR), NIST Handbook 130-Current Edition), Title 19, United States Code, Chapter 4, Section 1304 and 19 CFR 134, Country of Origin Marking regulations.
Importers need to refer to the agency that governs the specific product being imported since some may have special or additional requirements. Some imported products and their governing agencies are listed here.
Types of labels for imported goods
The types of labels for goods imported into the United States are quite varied. Generally speaking, labels must provide information about the product, such as its country of origin, source (if applicable), content, net quantity or weight, manufacturer or distributor name and address, and any necessary warnings.
Additional labeling requirements may apply depending on the product being imported. For example, food products may require nutritional facts. In addition to this basic information, some countries require special labeling to protect their own markets or consumers from unfair competition or dangerous products. For instance, U.S.-origin meat must be labeled with “product of U.S.;” garments made with fur must be labeled with the animal used; toys or other articles intended for use by children under three years old must carry a warning label; and electrical appliances must include efficiency ratings on the label.
In addition to these specific requirements for particular types of products, all imported products must also include the standard customs entry summary label when entering the United States. This is issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and serves as proof of entry for the product into the U.S. and provides an official legal record, should there be any disputes concerning duties paid on it later.
Country of Origin
The country of origin is where a specific good was grown, produced, or manufactured. When labeling an item with its country of origin, the phrase “Made in (country)” should appear in clear and legible letters. If the product was assembled, the phrase “Assembled in (country)” may also be used and can be followed by “from components of (the name of the country or countries of origin of all the components).”
Country of origin labels must be placed in a visible area where they will not be fully or partially covered by attachments. The marking should also be as permanent as possible and should not come off during the handling and shipping of the product unless it is for the deliberate removal of the label.
When labeling the country of origin, abbreviations or variant spellings similar to the country’s English name are acceptable. Examples include “Gt. Britain” for Great Britain and “Brasil” for Brazil. However, it is preferable to spell out the country of origin’s name to avoid confusion. Using “E.U.” for European Union cannot be used since it does not refer to one specific country of origin.
Alterations to the product
If a product undergoes the following, the country of origin may be changed to a secondary country.
- Additional work or material is added, leading to a new item being created
- Goods from a USMCA country falling under the USMCA Marking Rules (19 CFR Part 102), which state that the second country is the country of origin
- Textile or apparel products that fall under 19 CFR Part 102.21 stating that the second country is the country of origin (this applies to goods that are from a USMCA country and otherwise)
Clothing and apparel labels
Details on labels on clothing and apparel imported into the United States can be found on the Office of Textiles and Apparel website, but they usually must include the following:
- The trade name of the manufacturer or importer
- The country of origin
- The fiber content
- Specific care instructions for the item
CPSIA tracking label
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) requires toys and products for children between the ages of 0-12 to be labeled with a permanent CPSIA tracking label, ensuring that any unsafe or non-compliant items can be easily identified and returned to the seller. This label includes the following:
- Manufacturer name
- S. address
- S. phone number
- Date of production
- Production location
- Batch number (used to identify the production run, manufacturing facility, and country)
CPSIA choking hazard warnings
CPSIA also requires toys and children’s products to come with a choking hazard warning label. These labels can include phrases such as:
- WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD-Small parts. Not for children under 3 years.
- WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD-Toy contains a marble. Not for children under 3 years.
Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulation (UPLR)
The Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulation (UPLR), which applies in 45 out of 50 states, requires labels on consumer packages to include information on the quantity and the nature of a product. These labels must include the following:
- What the product is
- The importer or manufacturer’s name and business address
- The amount of the product in the package in weight, mass, or numerical count
What are the U.S. labeling requirements for imported goods?
Forms of marking
Marking on products should preferably be a part of the item itself using branding, stamping, printing, or other similar methods. Other forms are accepted as long as they are legible and visibly placed on the product; marking that can be deliberately removed, destroyed, or altered cannot be used.
If a tag is to be used, it should be attached in a visible place and in a way that guarantees it will remain in place until it reaches the ultimate purchaser. While adhesive labels can be used, they are not recommended because they can easily become loose and subject the importer to the cost of remaking the product.
If a product is imported in a container and will reach the ultimate purchaser in that state, the container does not have to be marked with its country of origin. If the container is not sold at retail or has another use after being emptied, such as a vase or candy bowl, it must be marked with its own country of origin.
Due to their nature, some products are exempt from the country of origin requirements. However, the packaging or container must indicate the country of origin. Exempt items include, but are not limited to:
- Products that cannot be marked, such as fruit
- Products that are too small to be directly marked on
- Products that are not intended for sale
- Products that were manufactured over 20 years before importation
- Some coffee and tea products
Any item that requires marking will be subject to additional duties if it is not labeled with the country of origin in English. Individuals who intentionally remove, destroy, alter, or cover markings to hide the country of origin may be subject to prosecution. Products may even be exported or destroyed by CBP during entry.
Moreover, importers who attempt to bring in unmarked products may be subject to the following:
- Duties up to 10% of the product’s value
- Delays in shipment release
- False certification penalties that could reach the total value of the goods
- Penalties of up to $50,000 if the markings are intentionally falsified or obscured
- Criminal penalties if the country of origin is intentionally falsified to avoid duties or restrictions
Understanding the labeling requirements for products brought into the United States from other countries is critical to importing. Importers need to research the FDA and USDA guidelines related to the product they are importing and ensure that their labels comply with all applicable regulations to remain within legal guidelines when bringing goods into the country. When it comes down to labeling requirements, knowledge is key; importers should take extra care to ensure that any imported shipments are labeled clearly and accurately, following minimum labeling requirements. Doing so will avoid unexpected issues during shipment and assure buyers that they are purchasing quality items responsibly sourced from abroad.
How GHY Can Help You
At GHY, our experienced team of trade experts are here to handle all your import needs. We also provide full-service solutions for managing, tracking, and filing all required paperwork associated with international trade. This ensures that all processes are handled efficiently and accurately so that your shipments arrive on time and comply with applicable regulations. With GHY at your side, you can rest assured that you’ll receive the best service possible at a competitive rate.
Book a meeting with one of our Trade Experts today and we can advise on the exact labeling requirements needed when importing your goods into the United States―saving you time and money.