Understanding Prior Notice for Shipping Food Products

MINHAL DATOO Mar 30, 2023 • 4 Min read
Prior Notice for Shipping Food Products

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. imported over $171 billion worth of food products in 2021. Shipping these products within the U.S. requires careful planning, coordination, and compliance with regulatory requirements, including providing prior notice.

In this article, we'll explore the importance of understanding prior notice for shipping food products within the U.S. and share best practices for compliance.

Understanding Prior Notice for Shipping Food Products

Prior notice is a requirement that mandates food importers, carriers, and brokers to notify the relevant authorities of their intent to import or transport food products. This regulation is essential in ensuring that food products are safe for consumption and comply with the regulations in the destination country. 

Prior notice requirements are prevalent in many countries, including the U.S., where it’s mandatory to provide prior notice before importing any food products.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to receive prior notification of any food (even including animal feed) that is imported or offered for import into the United States. This must be submitted via the FDA portal no more than 15 calendar days before the anticipated import date. 

Failure to comply with the prior notice regulations may result in severe consequences, such as the seizure of food products, penalties, or even criminal prosecution – quite the headache for your business. Clearly, it’s essential for businesses involved in shipping food products to understand the importance of submitting complete and accurate prior notices.

To get you prepared for this process, let’s go over what you need to submit for your prior notice. 

8 Steps to Prior Notice

Steps for the Prior Notice for Shipping Food Products

  1. Entry Information 

This refers to whether the food items are being sent via commercial or noncommercial senders, and the date it will enter the United States. 

  1. Submitter Information 

Information about the individual applying is collected here, including their name, business, phone number, address, country, and food facility registration number (if they have one). 

  1. United States Recipient Information 

This includes all of the information about the person in the U.S. that will be receiving the food.

  1. Create Prior Notice for Food Article 

This section will ask about whether the food has been refused entry by any country, the FDA product code, as well as the market (or normal) name. 

  1. Quantity and Packaging 

The FDA requires an estimated quantity of food that will be sent, including up to 5 packaging levels (small and larger containers). The portal has a handy Packaging Wizard that can help you with this! 

  1. Manufacturer 

Here you need to provide the Food Facility Registration Number, business name, and the city of the company which manufactured the products that are being shipped. 

  1. Shipper 

This includes the shipper's Food Facility Registration Number, business name, and location. If this is the same as any of the other sections, you can always choose the option "Shipper same facility as" to save yourself time! 

  1. Submit Prior Notice 

Here is where you get to celebrate, and click the lovely ‘Submit’ button. 

Best Practices to Keep in Mind 

  1. Use a reputable carrier

Using a reputable carrier is critical when shipping food products. A reliable carrier will ensure that your food products are transported in compliance with FDA regulations.

They will also have the necessary expertise and equipment to handle food products safely and efficiently and even aid in the prior notice applications. For example, if you’re shipping refrigerated food products, it’s important to understand the details involved with frozen food shipping, and the right carrier will make sure you’re in the clear. When selecting a carrier, consider factors such as their experience in transporting food products, their reputation in the industry, and their compliance with food shipping regulations.

  1. Provide complete and accurate information

Providing complete and accurate information in the prior notice is crucial to avoid any issues with shipping food products. Keep on top of this, and you won’t suffer from any potential delays, penalties, or seizure of food products.

  1. Submit the prior notice on time

As stated earlier, prior notice must not be submitted more than 15 days before the food products' intended arrival in the United States. 

Depending on how it is arriving, there are also some requirements about how late they can receive it. For example, for shipments arriving by land via rail, it must be no less than 4 hours. By land via road, you have 2 hours' leeway. You can learn more about these deadlines here to make sure you are following the necessary timeline. 

Bottom Line

Prior notice is an essential regulation that food importers, carriers, and brokers must comply with when shipping food products. 

The regulations governing prior notice may differ in different countries, but the purpose remains the same – to ensure that food products are safe for consumption and comply with the laws and regulations of the destination country. 

Being prepared and following these best practices will have you sending food products to the U.S. easily and without any hiccups. 

And if you are looking for a reliable and efficient shipping partner for your food products, here at eShipper we have the expertise and experience to help you get it done – and get it done right!

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