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How to Import Food for Resale in America

How to Import Food for Resale in America

Among the most popular foods imported into the United States are Coffee, spices and cocoa, Fish, Shellfish, Fresh fruits, Fresh juices, Sugar, Wines, Vegetable oils, Fresh vegetables and Processed vegetables.  But actually importing them legally and reselling them is much more complicated! Here's the basics of what you need to know! It's way too complicated for a single page, but you will find all the links you need below for the details.


If you are interested in importing food for commercial purposes, you may want to consult with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Import Specialist at the U.S. port of entry through which you intend to import. The Import Specialist can let you know what is required, which varies depending on the type of food, the country of origin of the food, as well as whether or not there are quota or other restrictions on what you want to import.

Customs brokers

Food products that are imported into the United States typically require additional permits, health certificates and other certifications specific to the product. For this reason, many importers hire a customs broker. Clearing imported products through CBP is an incredibly complicated task. Customs brokers are experts in the importation process. These brokers will help you through the process and ensure all the rules are followed. All customs brokers must be licensed and must and must obtain a power of attorney from you.

As an importer, you have the option of hiring a Customs Broker to file your entry with CBP, or you can do it yourself. Although there are so many details to handle when importing food items, we strongly advise using a broker.

To obtain a list of licensed Customs Brokers:

  1. Go to
  2.  Enter "find a broker" in the search box.
  3. Click on "Locate a Port of Entry"
  4.  Click on the "State"
  5. Click on the "Port Name"
  6. Scroll down to "Brokers"

Other U.S. Agencies

The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determine the admissibility of various food products imported into the United States. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is responsible for food products derived from wildlife. CBP enforces those requirements. All commercial imports of food and beverage products require the filing of Prior Notice (PN) with FDA and, if the products contain meat, egg, milk, poultry, or other animal origin products, may require permits, health certificates, and/or other specified certifications from the country of origin.

In general, these requirements DO NOT apply to food accompanying a traveler into the U.S. or being sent by an individual (not a business) for personal use. However, you should contact the above mentioned government agencies for their requirements.

Foreign manufacturers and/or distributors of food products must register with the FDA before their goods may be admitted.

CBP will not release food shipments without proof that PN has been filed with FDA. Therefore, it is imperative that the PN satisfied number is submitted to CBP along with the entry documents. The PN satisfied number should be annotated on the shipping documents (i.e. bill of lading or airway bill).

FDA Rules

When importing food for commercial resale, you will have to file paperwork with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA will review your application and determine the importation eligibility of your product. In addition to the prior notice requirement, once the goods arrive in the U.S., FDA may collect a sample or tell CBP to proceed with releasing the shipment. If a sample is in violation of FDA regulations, you will receive a Notice of Detention from FDA. To find out the status of food that has been detained by FDA, call the number referenced on the detention notice or the main number for Import Operations and Policy at (301) 443-6553.

For additional information on the Bio-Terrorism Preparedness and Response Act regulations and assistance with filing prior notice, please contact the Food and Drug Administration at 1-800-216-7331, if outside the U.S. call (301) 575-0156.

To find out more about FDA regulations on food imports, call 888-463-6332.


If the product you wish to import is a plant or farm animal product, you should consult with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The product may be prohibited or restricted from entering the United States. To inquire about the admissibility of meats, livestock, poultry and their products intended for resale, call the Food Safety and Inspection Service, Import Division, at (202) 720-9904. This number cannot provide information about personal importations of food products. They can only advise about requirements for commercial (resale) imports.

For fruits, and vegetables call the Plant division of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at (301) 734-8295.


Baked goods, seafood, canned and packaged goods, candy and chocolate, etc. must be labeled with country of origin, ingredients, and nutrition information. For specific information on labeling, please call the Office of Food Labeling at (202) 205-4606.