An Introduction to Importing FDA-Regulated Products into the US

As posted here previously, FDA has committed to greater inspection of imported products; particularly imported food and dietary supplements (supplements are regulated as a special class of foods).

We frequently work with companies that wish to import products into the US and have developed the following list of steps necessary to do so. Note that each step involves many sub-steps not listed here.  Many of the same steps apply to cosmetic products. Drugs and Medical devices must first be approved or cleared by FDA for use in the US and then steps 4-7 apply to them as well.

Steps to import foods & dietary supplements into the US:

  1. Register the facility where the products are produced and held. FDA Food Facility Registration and What You Need to Know About Registration of Food Facilities
  2. Review FDA Food Safety requirements and GMP regulations to ensure that the facilities
    can comply with them since registration puts you on FDA’s inspection list. See FDA webpage on Food Safety
  3. If your product is a liquid or gel and preserved by either a) having a low pH or b)being thermally processed, then you must register your facility (a separate registration than 1 above) and submit your processing steps for FDA review and approval prior to shipping product to the US. (Note: FDA uses the term ‘canned’ food to refer to any shelf stable product that has liquid or gel content.) Information for Aseptic Processors and Acidified or Low-Acid Canned Food Registration
  4. You must have a US Agent that is physically located in the US to serve as a domestic point of contact and communication with the FDA. US Agent
  5. You must ensure that your product ingredients are permitted in the US. Unfortunately, there is not a comprehensive list of what is or is not permitted and not everything that is permitted in the EU is permitted in the US. Even FDA’s Everything Added to Food in the United States is only a partial list.
  6. You must ensure that the product label is in compliance with FDA regulations FDA Food Labeling GuideDietary Supplement Labeling GuideCosmetic Labeling Guide
  7. You must notify the FDA of your shipments so then can be inspected upon import. Prior Notice of Imported Foods

NOTE:
This list only covers FDA’s side of importing. US Customs and Border Protection has other regulations which are outside of our expertise. We recommend that you work with a reputable Custom Broker to ensure compliance with those other import regulations.

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