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VCN – Customs face challenges in determining whether imported food samples for testing are exempt from state inspection for food safety, as well as in identifying which products require registration for announcement purposes.
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Behn Meyer Vietnam Co., Ltd. regularly imports sample shipments from foreign suppliers for testing to develop products and announce new products, but the firm is facing problems related to the exemption from state inspection of imported food safety.
Ho Chi Minh City Vinacontrol Inspection Co., Ltd said that imported goods which are used as test samples for self-declaration of products, but not for trading on the market are exempt from State inspection of food safety.
In this regard, Clause 5, Article 13 of the Government's Decree No. 15/2018/ND-CP issued on February 2, 2018, stipulates that "Test samples whose quantities are suitable for the testing purposes and confirmed by organizations or individuals” are exempt from state inspection of food safety. According to the General Department of Customs, the above regulation still has many unclear interpretations, leading to some difficulties in implementation.
An instance of ambiguity arises regarding the term "organizations and individuals" when determining the quantity that is exempt from state inspection for food safety. It remains unclear whether this phrase refers solely to the importer or includes others as well. A similar question arises with respect to whether imported samples from Behn Meyer Vietnam Co., Ltd. are exempt from state inspection for food safety.
Customs authorities are facing multiple challenges in their procedures, including the determination of policies for yogurt products, as well as the handling of sample goods for consideration of exemption from food safety inspection. One specific challenge is related to the importation of a product containing fermented milk (82.41% full-cream milk), high-fructose corn syrup, oligosaccharide, milk cream, mixed probiotic powder (0.002%), white sugar, potato starch, food fiber from acacia, freeze-dried banana powder (0.8%), synthetic flavoring (banana flavor) (0.4%), and freeze-dried probiotic (0.12%). This product is intended for 6-month-old babies and babies from the period of teething. Customs authorities have classified the product under HS code 19.01.10.20, subheading 19.01.10, which pertains to food preparations for infant use and is intended for retail sale.
When doing customs procedures, the enterprise does not have a certificate of receipt for registration of the product announcement but only presents the results of state inspection of food safety as the Notice of results certifying that the food meets the import requirements, issued by Technical Center 1 under the Directorate of Standards, Metrology and Quality.
This notice confirms that the enterprise's products meet the import requirements but does not represent the criteria to confirm the products for infant use.
In this case, the Customs office has difficulty determining the policy for the above-mentioned yogurt products for customs clearance.
According to the provisions of Article 6 of Decree No. 15/2018/ND-CP, the food suppliers must register the declarations of the following products: dietary supplements, medical foods, food for special dietary use; dietary products for children up to 36 months; Mixed food additives with new uses, food additives that are not on the list of permitted food additives or not used for intended foods as prescribed by the Ministry of Health (hereinafter referred to as “unregistered food additives”).
Circular No. 28/2021/TT-BYT dated December 20, 2021 of the Ministry of Health, does not specify foods according to Article 6 of Decree No. 15/2018/ND-CP, but only has general provisions on supplementary products.
Based on prevailing regulations and import dossiers, the Customs authorities do not have enough grounds to determine whether the above-mentioned yogurt products are dietary products for children up to 36 months old or cases that food suppliers must register the product announcement mentioned in Article 6 of Decree 15/2018/ND-CP.
If an enterprise submits the Notice of results from the Technical Center 1 under the Directorate of Standards, Metrology and Quality, which certifies that the imported food meets the import requirements for state inspection of food safety, is this sufficient for Customs to proceed with customs clearance?
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To have a basis to guide local customs units and businesses when carrying out customs clearance procedures, the General Department of Customs has requested the Ministry of Health to provide guidance on handling the above case.
By Ngoc Linh/ Huyen Trang