Health Inspection and Certification

Learn about health and sanitary regulations pre-shipment

tomatoes growing in a greenhouse
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It is important to know about the health and sanitary regulations in your country of destination that pertain to the product you are about to export.

The best way to find out about these regulations is to contact officials in the Foreign Agricultural Office, United States Department of Agriculture. This office is largely responsible for overseeing manufacturing, production and shipping practices that affect food safety, such as food additives, product standards and packaging.

Phytosanitary Inspection Certificate

If you are exporting an agricultural product, you might need a phytosanitary inspection certificate. This certificate is issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to satisfy import regulations for foreign countries. It indicates that a U.S. shipment has been inspected and is free from toxic plant and pest diseases. In addition to the phytosanitary certificate, the USDA issues the Export Certificate for Processed Plant Products and the Certificate of Quality and Condition. If a processed plant product cannot be given a phytosanitary certificate but has been denied entry to one or more countries for lack of a health certification, an Export Certificate can be issued.

Some products in this category are nuts in bulk that are salted, roasted, or vacuum-packed (in or out of their shells), soy-fortified products and meal extracted from seeds by solvent. The Certificate of Quality and Condition is offered by the USDA's Certification Manual following official inspection and grading of canned, frozen and dehydrated fruits and vegetables and other related products.

The Division also develops and maintains U.S. grade standards, grading manuals, inspection aids, and color guides for these products; and commercial item descriptions for all commodities. This certificate is available on a fee basis and can be tailored to meet your specific export needs.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), helps to foster agricultural trade for importers and exporters, and its Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) unit is vital to the successful movement of healthy commodities into and out of the United States.

PPQ is responsible for ensuring that healthy seeds, plants, timber, flowers, vegetables, fruits, and a multitude of other agricultural commodities can be exported without risk to agriculture and natural resources.

Get It Right the First and Only Time

Even a minor documentation problem can cost you and your customer time and trouble. Once a very upset Japanese customer emailed me about a health inspection certificate problem they had on a shipment just received. They complained that I should have prepared the health certificate to match up exactly to the proforma. My customer told me that the local customs officials would not allow clearance of the goods because of that particular discrepancy. Although I was a little confused by the extra data they wanted included on the commercial invoice, I re-issued it within minutes, not just in one new version but three, just in case the first one didn't suit the customs people. As it turned out, all three of them worked, so they settled on the one that best suited their needs and cleared their shipment.

Fortunately for me, that mistake was easily resolved. In fact, to this day, the customer still brings up this story because they never had a supplier go to such great lengths to get it right the second time! Now my guiding principle is to go to great lengths to get it right the first and only time. It should be yours too.

For more information, visit:

Phytosanitary Certificate Issuance and Tracking (PCIT)

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

USDA - APHIS Permits, Notifications, Petitions, Licenses, and Certifications