How to Import Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits from around the world are popular in the US.
Fruits from around the world are popular in the US. (Image: Zedcor Wholly Owned/ Images)

Importing fruits and vegetables into the US is a viable way to start and run a lucrative business, as the international food trade is a stable part of the global economic system. The United States Food and Drug Administration tightly regulates the importation and exportation of all food products however, and you must first comply with all of their regulations and standards before you begin. Imported products may be checked by the FDA upon arrival, and if they are not up to legitimate code they may be confiscated or even sent back to the country of origin.

Give prior notice to the FDA that you are planning to import foods into the country. With the passage of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, all imports of food products in the US require advance notification of the FDA. File your import in advance on the Prior Notice System Interface of the FDA website. The FDA requires that the notification must be submitted by the importer and confirmed by the FDA no more than 5 days before the shipment is expected and no less than 8 hours before it arrives.

Register any facility that you plan on using to hold the fruit or vegetables with the FDA. The Bioterrorism Act requires that importers notify and register all facilities used to manufacture, process, pack or hold food so that the FDA may come and search them at any time. Register your facility by mail, fax or on-line through their step by step facility registration form. If registering by mail or fax, be sure to include all of the extensive information pertaining to the facility as described on the FDA website, including name and contact information for the facility's owner.

Get an ¨Authorize Permit¨ from the United States Department of Food and Agriculture. The USDA has very specific guidelines for importing fruits and vegetables, and tightly regulates certain varieties from certain countries due to possible contamination with disease carrying insects and pesticides. They will want to know exactly what fruit and vegetables you are importing and from where before they issue you an ¨Authorize Permit¨. Enter the specific information relating to the fruit and vegetables you want to import (scientific name, country of origin etc) into the Fruits and Vegetables Import Requirements Database, on the USDA website. Depending on the products you want to import, conditions for receiving an ¨Autorize Permit¨ will vary.

Once you are authorized by both the FDA and the USDA, proceed to import your fruits and vegetables.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be ready for holdings and insections of imported fruits and vegetables by both the USDA and the FDA.

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