Petitioning USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service for change are not for the faint of heart. While petitions are few, it’s usually a long wait even when the reply is going to be negative.
Nevertheless, a fifth petition has been submitted for 2022. And this one is from the far and distant north–Iceland. It’s been submitted by Topiceland.com It calls itself “a small web shop.”
It’s located in Grundarfjordur, Iceland, and is owned by a company called Klakkur ehf. Formed in 2017, its “main goal” is to serve Icelanders outside of Iceland foods from home they might be missing,
Johann Jon Isleifsson filed the petition on behalf of TopIceland.
According to FSIS, ” the petition requests that FSIS clarify that the regulations in 9 CFR 327.16, which prescribe requirements for the importation of small amounts meat products for the importer’s personal consumption, apply to meat products purchased over the internet.”
” The petition states that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a product for personal importation as a product, not for further sale or distribution into U.S. commerce, and that the products may be carried in baggage or shipped by courier or international mail. “
“The petition says that like FDA, FSIS should not distinguish between modes of delivery for purposes of importation of products for personal consumption.
FSIS reports referring the Icelander’s petition to the Office of Policy and Program Development for review and has been assigned petition number 22-05. It would allow internet purchases on the website TopIceland.com by households in the USA to be defined as a purchase for personal use only.
Background:( from the petition)
“Any product in a quantity of 50 pounds or less which was purchased by the importer outside the United States for his/her own consumption, is eligible to be imported into the United States from any country without compliance with the provisions in other sections of this part but subject to applicable requirements under other laws, including the regulations in part 94 of this title. However, Program employees may inspect any product imported under this section to determine whether it is within the class eligible to be imported under this paragraph.”
TopIceland has been supplying customers in the United States with Icelandic local food for their own consumption since its founding in 2017. US households with a connection to Iceland have also welcomed this service. These households mainly constitute US citizens who have lived in Iceland (families in the army base in Keflavik, diplomats, and those who have had their work and education in Iceland) and have established a connection with the country. They want to experience the food again and allow their children and grandchildren to experience the food from Iceland.
TopIceland has been offering its service now since 2017 without any issues or comments from US authorities until we received a note from USDA on August 5th, 2022 regarding a USDA seizure of shipments. In short, after over five (5) years of importing to the United States without any problems, suddenly our most popular item (Icelandic hot dogs) was prohibited from being imported to the USA. There was no warning, no adaption time.
The explanation given by the USDA was that this import is now defined as a commercial import because it is purchased outside of the USA via the internet and therefore regulation 9 CFR 327.16 is not valid.
According to this definition, the FDA does not distinguish between modes of delivery when defining products for own consumption. As such, our service should continue to be covered by Regulation 9 CFR 327.16.
- All imports from TopIceland to the USA is for personal use only. We only ship directly to households for our own consumption.
- According to the FDA definition of personal imports, these products can be delivered via passengers or shipped by courier or international mail.
- No comments or actions have been raised by US authorities for five (5) years against these imports. We have been operating all this time in good faith, and it is quite unfair to start using these unclear regulations against our small company without any warnings or chance to discuss or change the outcome.
- Our customers are Icelandic or USA households with a connection to Iceland, including soldiers that worked in the army base in Iceland. This is important for them as it is for us.
- Our customers purchase items well within the regulation. Our biggest customer is buying around 25 pounds over the whole year.
- Iceland is not on any list of FSIS countries with animal illnesses. On the contrary, Iceland is known to be animal illness free with high-quality and healthy food products.
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