U.S. Customs and Border Protection has penalized a U.S. importer $575,000 for importing goods made with forced labor, the first such penalty issued since the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 tightened restrictions on such goods.

CBP states that this action stems from an investigation into stevia produced in China that CBP initiated after receiving an allegation from a non-governmental organization. That investigation led CBP to issue a withhold release order against stevia extracts and their derivatives that remains in effect. CBP states that during a subsequent investigation it obtained evidence establishing that the importer had imported at least 20 shipments of stevia powder and derivatives produced from stevia leaves that were processed in China with prison labor in violation of U.S. law.

CBP notes that it has increased its enforcement of the prohibition on imports made with forced labor over the past year, including by issuing four WROs against products from China and seven WROs against goods from other countries. Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner of CBP’s Office of Trade, emphasized that “companies have a responsibility to proactively monitor their supply chains” to mitigate the risk of importing goods made with forced labor.

For more information, please contact Nicole Bivens Collinson or Elise Shibles.

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