Frequently Asked Questions - Import / Export

Import and export policies vary based on the effective nation. The Codex Alimentarius offers a searchable database of current official standards and guidelines of import/export policies. You can search here for standards on your export food product to determine if your standards comply with international standards.

For import and export assistance contact the United States Foreign Agricultural Service:

United States Importing/Exporting

If you would like to speak to a food safety representative regarding your product, please refer to our federal, state, and local food safety representative contacts.

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While each individual country has its own food safety standards and laws, there are two international organizations that have established standards and rules to ensure consumers are being supplied with food safe to eat. They are the:

  • Codex Alimentarius Commission
  • World Trade Organization (WTO)
  • The Codex Alimentarious Commission is the body created by the FAO and WTO.

    The Commission is charged with developing the food standards, guidelines, codes of practice, and recommendations that constitute the Codex Alimentarius, or food code, which serves as a global reference point for international trade. The Codex helps to protect consumer health, ensure fair food trade practices, and coordinate food standards work undertaken by internal government and non-government organizations. The Codex is a global reference point for international food trade.

    The WTO has an international agreement on how governments can apply food safety and animal and plant health measures called the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Agreement . This agreement sets out the basic rules for food safety and animal and plant health standards, and names the joint FAO/WTO Codex Alimentarius as the relevant standard-setting organization for food safety.

    Member countries are encouraged to use the Codex international standards, guidelines and recommendations when available, but may choose to set their own standards. These standards must be science-based and "applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health".

    The Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) agreement has specifications for control, inspection methods, and approval procedures. Each member government must provide advance notice of new or modified sanitary and phytosanitary regulations, and establish a national enquiry point to provide information. The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is the U.S. Enquiry Point for all WTO member inquiries related to SPS regulations.

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    More than 12 federal agencies regulate food safety in the United States. However, four agencies play a major role in monitoring imports: the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

  • Food Safety and Inspection Service
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Marine Fisheries Service
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    Many countries worldwide have different regulations based on their own food safety standards. The differences among these countries can potentially affect international trade relations. A report titled, International Trade and Food Safety: Economic Theory and Case Studies by the USDA Economic Research Service presents research on the interaction between food safety and international trade.

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    U.S. imports of fish and seafood products must meet the same requirements as domestic product. The regulations are under the Safe and Sanitary Processing and Importing of Fish and Fishery Products (21 CFR part 123) and require that all seafood products in interstate commerce in the U.S. must have been processed in accordance with the FDA Seafood HACCP regulations.

    The FDA has provided Web sites from several countries that have Lists of Foreign Processors Approved by their Governments.

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    There are two different Export Certificate Lists. In the past, the EU used the FDA List of Approved Seafood Processors for acceptance of US seafood shipments. Due to a change in EU legislation, they now maintain their own Official EU List.

    For details, please read the FDA's announcement to all shippers.

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