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Tips for Navigating U.S. Goods Returned


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Exporting almonds is routine for many almond handlers, but occasionally the tables turn, and a handler may find itself an importer of the very almonds it originally shipped. More often than not, exported almonds returned to the U.S. are brought back due to aflatoxin, and while rejections abroad have significantly decreased over the past two crop years, occurrences do happen.

What steps does a handler need to take to effectively and efficiently clear U.S. Customs and take possession of its almond shipment?

This question was the subject of discussion during a session at The Almond Conference 2020 titled “Navigating U.S. Goods Returned: FDA Insights,” where two senior U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials from the Office of Enforcement and Import Operations shared tips for handlers: Mr. Gordon Chu, Acting Program Division Director, and Mr. Lawton Lum, Director of the Compliance Branch.

For starters, FDA treats all goods entering U.S. ports as imports, regardless of the country of origin. This includes returned almonds.

Imported shipments must comply with the same standards as domestic products, which include labeling requirements, and these products are screened by FDA before entering the U.S. If the product does not comply with U.S. requirements, it may be refused admission and must be destroyed or exported from the U.S. within 90 days.

Critical steps for goods returned:

1.  Get the product back to the U.S.

a.  ABC will issue an official “Goods Returned Letter” to the appropriate authorities, if required.

b.  Contact a licensed customs broker.

c.  Prepare for an FDA Detention Notice if the product exceeds U.S. regulatory limits. Expect a notice if the product was rejected in a foreign port for aflatoxin exceeding 20 parts per billion (ppb).

2.  Engage with your assigned FDA Compliance Officer

a.  Respond to FDA’s notification within the time allotted – act early! If you do not, the only course of action for FDA is to issue a refusal notice and the product must be returned to U.S. Customs.

b.  Prepare and submit a DETAILED reconditioning plan.

c.  Wait for FDA’s written response before reconditioning.

3. Carry out your reconditioning plan in accordance with FDA’s response

a.  Complete FDA Form 766, certifying reconditioning and submit it to FDA with supporting documentation.

Corresponding with FDA:

A Detention Notice from FDA will include a respond-by date and the name and contact information of the compliance officer handling the import entry. Handlers can also check the status of their entry, submit documentation and availability for an FDA examination, and receive official Notices of Action at

If a reconditioning plan is required, FDA emphasizes that it must include detailed information, such as which equipment will be used, which processes will be implemented (sorting, washing, re-roasting, time and temperature values, etc.), and how segregation of acceptable versus rejected products will be handled.

For more information about bringing goods back into the U.S., please contact the Almond Board of California’s Director of Quality Assurance and Industry Services Tim Birmingham at You can also review How to Deal with Rejection, a detailed slide deck covering information on rejected shipments.

Industry members are invited to watch the entire panel discussion to learn more about navigating U.S. goods returned, and view all sessions from The Almond Conference 2020 on ABC’s YouTube playlist, “The Almond Conference 2020.