Export Food Products, A Step-by-Step Guide

Export Food Products, A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Export Food Products from the US: A Step-by-Step Guide

Exporting food products from the US can be a lucrative business opportunity, but it also requires compliance with various laws and regulations. In this article, we will explain the steps you need to take to export food products from the US, including:

  • Meeting the general, food-specific and foreign country requirements
  • Obtaining an export certificate for the food you wish to export
  • Getting foreign country validation or verification if needed
  • Shipping and labeling your food products according to the destination country’s rules

Step 1: Meet the requirements for exporting the food

The minimum requirements to export any food under the FDA’s oversight are that the food meets US requirements (unless otherwise stated) and, if applicable, your food business holds a valid license or registration that is in good standing with the FDA.

You also need to follow the requirements of the countries to which you export, which may vary depending on the type of food product, the destination country, and the intended use of the product. Some countries may require additional certifications, inspections, tests, or documentation for certain food products. You should work closely with your importer or foreign customer to obtain this information.

Some examples of food-specific and foreign country requirements are:

  • Human milk and human milk-based infant formula products exported to Australia require an FDA-issued “Certificate to a Foreign Government” (CFG) with additional data elements and certification statements. You can request a CFG by submitting an online application in the CFSAN Export Certification Application and Tracking System (CFSAN eCATS).
  • Certain dairy products exported to Canada require a CFIA export license or registration and an export certificate issued by the FDA. You can apply for these documents through the Export Listing Module (ELM).
  • Certain seafood products exported to China require an FDA-issued “Health Certificate for Export of Foods” (HCE) with specific information and signatures. You can request an HCE by submitting an online application in CFSAN eCATS.

Step 2: Obtain export certification

Export certification is a written document that attests that a food product meets certain standards or specifications. It is often requested by foreign customers or foreign governments to facilitate trade or ensure food safety. The FDA does not require export certification for exports, but it may provide it in a form the agency determines appropriate.

The FDA provides two types of export certification for food products: certificates and export lists.

Certificates are documents issued by the FDA that contain information about a specific product, shipment, manufacturer, or exporter. The FDA issues three types of certificates for food products:

  • Certificate of Free Sale (CFS): attests that a product is legally marketed in the US or eligible for export
  • Certificate to a Foreign Government (CFG): attests that a product meets US requirements or standards
  • Health Certificate for Export of Foods (HCE): attests that a product meets certain health or sanitary conditions

You can request a certificate by submitting an online application in CFSAN eCATS. The FDA charges a fee for issuing certificates.

Export lists are publicly available lists of establishments eligible for export for certain food products. Some foreign food safety authorities require inclusion on these lists as a condition for import. The FDA maintains export lists for the following food products:

  • Dairy products
  • Infant formula
  • Seafood products
  • Collagen and gelatin products

You can apply for inclusion on these lists through the Export Listing Module (ELM). The FDA does not charge a fee for maintaining export lists.

Step 3: Get foreign country validation or verification

Some countries may require validation or verification of your food products or facilities before allowing import. Validation or verification may take the form of an evaluation or audit conducted by the foreign country’s officials or authorized third parties.

The FDA does not conduct validation or verification activities on behalf of foreign countries, but it may facilitate communication and cooperation between US exporters and foreign authorities. The FDA may also provide information or assistance to foreign authorities upon request.

Some examples of foreign country validation or verification are:

  • The European Union requires an audit of US dairy establishments exporting dairy products to the EU. The audit is conducted by EU officials or authorized third parties.
  • Saudi Arabia requires an evaluation of US seafood establishments exporting seafood products to Saudi Arabia. The evaluation is conducted by Saudi officials or authorized third parties.
  • Vietnam requires an inspection of US infant formula establishments exporting infant formula products to Vietnam. The inspection is conducted by Vietnamese officials.

Step 4: Ship and label your food products

Once you have met all the requirements for exporting your food products, you can ship them to your destination country. You should ensure that your food products are properly packaged, labeled, and handled during transportation to prevent damage, spoilage, contamination, or loss.

You should also comply with the labeling requirements of the destination country, which may differ from those of the US. Some countries may require specific information, symbols, languages, or formats on the labels of food products. You should consult with your importer or foreign customer to obtain the labeling requirements for your food products.

Some examples of labeling requirements for food products are:

  • Australia requires a country of origin statement on the labels of food products, indicating where the food was grown, produced, made, or packed.
  • Canada requires bilingual labeling (English and French) on the labels of food products, as well as a metric net quantity declaration and a nutrition facts table.
  • China requires a Chinese label on the labels of food products, as well as a shelf life date, a production date, and a standard code.

Export Food Products: A Growing Industry

The global demand for food products is increasing as the world population grows and incomes rise. Food products include both raw and processed agricultural commodities, such as grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, nuts, wine, and coffee. Exporting food products can provide economic benefits for both producing and consuming countries, as well as contribute to food security and diversity.

Trends in Food Product Exports

According to the World’s Top Exports website, globally exported food products were worth a total of US$1.314 trillion in 2020. That dollar amount represents 7.5% of worldwide exports for all goods, accelerating by 22.7% compared to the 6.1% food-to-total metric 10 years earlier in 2010. The top five food exporters in 2020 were the United States, the European Union, Brazil, China, and Canada, accounting for more than half of the global market share.

The United States was the largest food exporter in 2020, with a value of US$177 billion, an 18% increase relative to 2019. The leading U.S. agricultural exports are grains and feeds, soybeans, livestock products, tree nuts, fruits, vegetables, and other horticultural products. The top export destinations for U.S. food products in 2020 were China, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and the European Union.

Factors Affecting Food Product Exports

Several factors can affect the supply and demand of food products in the global market, such as weather conditions, trade policies, consumer preferences, transportation costs, and exchange rates. For example, droughts or floods can reduce crop yields and increase prices, while trade agreements or tariffs can facilitate or hinder trade flows. Consumer preferences can also change over time, influenced by factors such as income levels, health awareness, environmental concerns, and cultural diversity.

Some of the current challenges and opportunities for food product exporters include:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global supply chains and affected consumer demand for certain food products, such as meat and dairy. However, it has also increased the demand for shelf-stable and online food products, such as canned goods and e-commerce platforms.
  • The climate change crisis poses a threat to food production and security, as it can cause extreme weather events, crop failures, pests and diseases, and water scarcity. However, it can also create opportunities for innovation and adaptation, such as developing climate-resilient crops, improving irrigation systems, and adopting sustainable practices.
  • The digital transformation of the food industry offers new ways to enhance efficiency, quality, traceability, and transparency of food products along the value chain. For example, digital technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, big data, and internet of things can help improve food safety, reduce waste, optimize logistics, and increase consumer trust.

Exporting food products is a growing and dynamic industry that can generate economic and social benefits for both producers and consumers. However, it also faces various challenges and uncertainties that require constant monitoring and adaptation. To succeed in the global market, food product exporters need to be aware of the trends and factors that affect their competitiveness and profitability.









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