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What’s Really in Your Imported Shipment?

By: Simon Kaye, CEO, Jaguar Freight
Posted: April 14, 2009

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Such systems and technologies can be an advantage even in the most complex regulatory issues that require detailed bill of lading listings. For example, cosmetic products frequently incorporate organic plant materials, some of them rare and exotic, others standard and widely used. Of course, when these products are imported for cosmetic production they must be detailed on the bill of lading and meet all applicable customs regulations, labeling requirements and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards. But now a new regulatory regime involves a law that is primarily intended to prohibit the importation of exotic animal species—but that has been extended to plant materials with potential application to cosmetic and personal care products.

The law in question is the Lacey Act, as amended in 2008. It has been on the books for years to help the United States support the efforts of other countries to combat illegal poaching and logging. Under the amendments passed in 2008, the Lacey Act now makes it unlawful to import, sell, receive or purchase any plant, with some limited exceptions, taken or traded in violation of the laws of a U.S. state or most foreign laws. The Lacey Act also makes it unlawful to make or submit false labeling or records of any plant. It is unlawful under the act to import any covered plant or plant product without an accurate supporting declaration.

This declaration must be made at the time of importation, to state the scientific name of the plant (including genus and species), the value and quantity of the plant material imported, and the name of the country in which the plant was harvested. If packaging made with recycled content is imported, the declaration must state the average percent of recycled content without regard for species or country of harvest.

Lacey Act terms are not precise. It defines “plant” to mean “any wild member of the plant kingdom, including roots, seeds, parts or product thereof, and trees from either natural or planted forest stands.” Obviously, materials from many such “plants” could be blended together, or harvested in more than one country. In such instances, the act requires importers to declare the name of each species that may have been used to produce the product, and to declare the name of each country from which the plant may have been harvested.

Common food crops and scientific research specimens are among the plants excluded from Lacey Act coverage. Most of the provisions relate to such products as lumber, wood pulp, furniture and paper. However, pharmaceuticals are specifically included for coverage, as well as products manufactured from plant-based resins. These provisions likely require a declaration for chemicals or pharmaceuticals using any tree cellulose, fiber or extract, as well as for lipstick or other cosmetics using any wood resin, gum or tar.