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A Post-Brexit guide to UK Food Companies Exporting to the US

COVID-19 has somewhat over-shadowed Brexit since early 2020 but with Brexit now looming over the UK, food businesses are facing even more uncertain prospects. Single market access is still a major outstanding issue, meaning that the future of the UK food & Beverage exports is a risk too far for many after recent events.

With UK food and beverage exports to the EU totalling £8.7bn as recently as 2018, losing trade volume of this magnitude could be disastrous for UK food and beverage companies.

In the background, Brexit and US trade remains a potentially thorny issue. UK fears of ‘chlorinated chicken’ abound but there are also fears that UK food firms may end up losing trade with the EU as the Brexit effect clicks in early in 2022. Therefore, it will be important to increase trade with the USA, a natural market for UK firms, by building on the so-called “special relationship”.

It is not too late to get ahead of the curve. For many UK food businesses, it may be desirable, or even essential, given the downturn caused by COVID-19, to get your food company US market ready as soon as possible. This can open significant opportunities to exploit this huge potential trading opportunity before competitors.

However, contrary to the UK governments belief, trade with the USA is not as simple as flicking a switch. Exporting to the USA has very different requirements than exporting to the EU under current regulations.

Here is a Primer

The FDA, under the guidance of the US Government, enacted the Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA) in 2011 after endless food safety scandals and salmonella outbreaks. Not new news by any means but it is the largest overhaul of the US Food & Beverage market for over 70 years and will take 20 years to roll out fully, so it is still in the early stages. FSMA has affected all foreign exporters to the US as well as currently operating US based companies and the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) are only starting to ramp up enforcement activities.

A pre-requisite is that all food companies out with the US MUST be registered as a “foreign food facility” within the FDA’s portal. This will provide you with a registration number that can later be used at the port of entry to avoid any detentions or refusals, a dreaded and potentially costly scenario that is much more common than you may think.

Furthermore, if you intend on exporting your produce to the United States market you must have a US Based Consignee, or a US based Import ‘FSVP Agent’ to take responsibility for FDA compliance of your food and dietary supplement products. This means that if you are not physically based within the US, you need someone who is and will take legal responsibility for your food products. If your importer does not wish to do this (and many do not) then you will, by law, need an FSVP Agent.

All products exported to the USA must meet current standards imposed by the FDA on all Food & Beverage companies within the US. This is commonly known as the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP). FSVP requires a review of your product safety controls, its certification and procedures to ensure that it complies with current US law (aka Preventive Controls rule).

This FSVP assessment must also be carried out by a Preventative Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) who has undergone training in US food safety procedures. Check out our FSVP Overview for further details.

Whilst the rest of the world operates to HACCP standards, the US operates to Preventative Controls, and whilst these have the same goal of safety food products, there are some significant differences that could ultimately result in your product being rejected at the port of entry.

In addition to compliance with FSVP regulations in terms of food safety, there’s also labelling to worry about.

FDA has announced new regulations surrounding how US Food & Beverage products shall be labelled for sale to the public within the US. The general idea of this is that food and beverage produce sold within the US must be labelled as defined by the FDA, clearly listing calories, the daily value percentages of ALL nutritional and vitamin information, be rounded correctly, and clearly display any allergens amongst other things. It is definitely not the same as the EU labelling rules, although there are similarities.

Once you the above in place, there’s Prior Notice.

When you are ready to ship your product to the US, you MUST give prior notice to the FDA and your Global Import Agent or Consignee. This is to allow time for adequate checks on your company, your product, its food safety, any recall alerts, and general compliance.

How We Can Help

If all this sounds daunting, do not worry. Global Import Agent specialises in helping Foreign Food & Beverage exporters reach the US market. We will register you with the FDA, carry out FSVP assessments for each of your products, review, assess and design your new US label and ensure that its compliant. We will also provide prior notice on your behalf, and deal with all FDA compliance issues on your behalf.

If you want to get ahead of the curve and reach the USA Food & Beverage market, we can help. We have offices both within the UK and USA, so we understand both sides of the coin and we work on UK time zones.

Contact Us now if you have any questions, or to arrange a free consultation.



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