Three Things You Need To Know Before Importing Chocolate

Did you know on average, 62% of American adults celebrate valentine’s day? This special holiday generates USD $448 million in sales alone in the week before the occasion, with chocolate taking the cake, obviously, merchants sell 58 million pounds of the confection put into 36 million heart-shaped boxes according to

Know the Rules

For companies that ship chocolate, time is the most important factor when getting the goods into stores. Because chocolate is a food product, the federal government supervises its safety not only to guarantee that the products are consumable, but also in terms of potential terrorist-related acts related to the nation’s food supply.

Even though chocolate is considered harmless enough when snuggled into candy wrappings and decorated with caramel, all chocolate is treated the same any other food product making way into the country. Because of this, it’s vital that importers have the correct documentation—and product descriptions are clear and precise, otherwise you risk having valuable cargo spoil while customs determine what to do with it.

  1. Educate yourself on the food import/export processes. Chocolate is an FDA-regulated good and when you import into the U.S. the goods must comply with the FDA laws and regulations that domestic products adhere too. Entries are submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which refers entries of FDA-regulated products for review.


The FDA divides the identity of chocolate (including chocolate ingredients) into the following categories:


  • Chocolate liquor
  • Sweet chocolate
  • Milk chocolate
  • Buttermilk chocolate
  • Skim milk chocolate
  • Mixed dairy product chocolate
  • Bittersweet chocolate


Within each of these sections, the FDA states requirements regarding the formulation of each type of chocolate, such as the milk and sugar content that the chocolate must have to be classified into each category as well as restrictions as to what ingredients may be added to the product. Note that there isn’t a separate category for dark chocolate, and confusion about this sometimes causes import delays.


  1. File your prior notices accurately and on time. Since 2003, food importers have been required to provide the FDA with advance notice of human and animal food shipments imported or offered for import. This allows the FDA, CBP, and other government agencies to conduct (and target) import inspections more efficiently while helping to protect our food supply against potential public health issues, acts of terrorism, and so forth.


  1. Factor in FSMA. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is concentrating on the emphasis of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it. In 2011 a final rule was published; requiring that a person submitting prior notice of imported food to report the name of any country to which the article has been refused entry.


When entry is made for these products, importers or customs brokers must include the Harmonized Tariff Schedule code in the entry submission. This classification code is used to acquire the relevant tariff rates and statistical categories for imported goods.


Avoid Costly Delays

The FDA indicated that, “FDA entry reviewers look for complete and accurate data in the entry submissions,” “Providing FDA with complete and accurate data expedites the review of your entry”.

Entry submissions that contain inadequate or partial information are marked for manual review by the FDA. The FDA’s screening tool uses numerous resources of information to evaluate risk. By understanding regulations and procedures of importing perishable food products such as chocolate, you can make certain cargo will get to the market on-time.

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