The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has upheld a Court of International Trade ruling that certain tuna salad products are properly classified as fish in oil in airtight containers under HTSUS 1604.14.10 (35 percent duty) rather than as prepared meals that are minced under HTSUS 1604.20.05 (10 percent duty) or tuna not minced and not in oil under HTSUS 1604.14.22 (6 percent duty) or HTSUS 1604.14.30 (12.5 percent duty).

This case involves two varieties of tuna salad products, albacore and chunk light, each of which is imported as ready-to-eat pouches or lunch-to-go kits that consist of the tuna salad, crackers, a mint, a napkin, and a spoon. The production processes for both types of products are the same in all relevant ways: the fish is caught in South American or international waters, frozen, delivered to a facility in Ecuador, sorted, thawed, cooked, machine chopped, and hand-folded with a prepared mixture of other ingredients including a mayonnaise base comprising more than 12 percent soybean oil. The resulting mixture is packaged into pouches using metal funnels.

Like the CIT, the CAFC found that the tuna in these packages is not minced. Mincing at least requires separation into very small pieces, the court said, whereas the products at issue are properly described as chunky after being subject to a process of machine chopping and hand-folding with other ingredients. The court also affirmed that the finished products are packed in oil because the oil in them is introduced prior to packing and is not merely incidental to the preparation.

For more information on classification issues, please contact Deb Stern at (305) 894-1007. 

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