Logistics and Customs: The FSVP demystified

March 7, 2022

The Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) is a law in effect since May 30, 2017. It is an integral part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed in 2011, and is a major reform, administered by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration), regarding the importation of agri-food products into the United States.

Its objective? To ensure the safety of the food chain.

The FSVP includes many nuances and specificities on which we will try to shed light. The Group Export would like to thank Linda Labrosse, customs specialist, for her valuable advice.

The American customer or the foreign supplier: who is targeted?

First, it is important to distinguish between the non-resident record importer, who is responsible for customs clearance, and the FSVP importer, who is responsible for this program.

Indeed, Customs allows a foreign entity to become a record importer. However, under the FSVP program, FDA does not allow this same foreign entity to become an FSVP importer.

In summary, the U.S. customer must vouch for the products it imports. The customer must keep a record of its suppliers and each product and ensure that the products meet U.S. food safety and security standards.

Different management of the FSVP depending on the export situation

There are several situations in which a company may ship food products to the U.S. and, depending on the situation, the FSVP program does not always apply in the same way.

A sale made in the United States

When a Quebec company makes a sale in the United States, the American customer who will become the owner of the merchandise must take the responsibility of becoming the FSVP importer.

Even if the U.S. customer requests it, the Quebec company cannot become the importer in this scenario. If the U.S. customer refuses to be identified as the FSVP importer, the shipment will not be accepted by Customs and the FDA.

Some exporters believe that they can mandate a U.S. agent to become the FSVP importer for their customers, but this is not allowed when the merchandise is sold.

A trade show with samples sent

The U.S. agent can however be mandated as an FSVP importer when the exported merchandise is not sold, as is the case when participating in a trade show for example.

This U.S. agent will then be identified as the FSVP importer on the customs invoice. Note that annual and shipping fees are payable to the agent representing the company.

The same principle applies to the shipment of samples, unless they total less than US$800.

A shipment of less than US$800 – Section 321

Finally, it is important to know that the FSVP does not apply if the value of the goods is less than US$800. In this case, the exporter can enter SECTION 321 on his customs invoice, whether the goods are sold or not. The FSVP is exempt from this procedure.

Please note: Section 321 applies to one shipment per day, per customer, and declared at its fair value. It does not apply to food products under US quota.

FSVP exempted products

In addition, since they are subject to stricter standards by their nature, some products are exempted, namely : 

  • fish and seafood that meet Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) standards
  • juices and ingredients that meet HACCP standards
  • alcoholic beverages;
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) meat and poultry products;
  • Low acid canned goods;
  • food sent for research or evaluation, or for personal consumption, or transshipped, or that will be processed for export or returned U.S. products without having received added value abroad.

In practical terms, how do we comply with the FSVP?

In the case of regular sales, the exporter must contact its U.S. customers and obtain a written consent that the customer agrees to be identified as an FSVP importer and, in return, that the exporter ensures that its products meet U.S. standards.

For trade shows, the exhibitor must find an FSVP agent who will be responsible for the merchandise imported into the U.S. for the show.

This simplified procedure applies to products of Canadian origin. In this case, the following information must be added to the commercial invoice: the name of the importing company, a contact name, email, phone number and Data Universal Number System (DUNS).

If the products are manufactured elsewhere, the responsibility is increased and the written exchange of consent is not sufficient.

In case of uncertainty, it is always advisable to consult a specialized lawyer who can assist you.

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