U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued a withhold release order against imported stevia extracts and their derivatives produced by PureCircle Ltd. in China. Effective June 1 this order, which is based on information indicating that these products are produced with the use of convict labor, will require detention of any such goods at all U.S. ports of entry. CBP states that importers of detained shipments are provided an opportunity to demonstrate that the goods were not produced with forced labor.
19 USC 1307 prohibits the importation of goods mined, produced or manufactured, wholly or in part, in any foreign country by forced labor, including convict labor, forced child labor and indentured labor. Such goods are subject to exclusion and/or seizure and may lead to criminal investigation of the importer. The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 closed a loophole in this law that had allowed imports of certain forced labor-produced goods if they were not produced domestically in such quantities as to meet consumptive demands.
When information reasonably but not conclusively indicates that goods within the purview of 19 USC 1307 are being imported, CBP may issue withhold release orders. However, CBP states that it acts on information concerning specific manufacturers, exporters and goods and does not generally target entire product lines or industries in problematic countries or regions. CBP also does not generally publicize specific detentions, re-exportations, exclusions or seizures that may have resulted from its withhold release orders or findings.
CBP encourages stakeholders to closely examine their supply chains to ensure that imported goods are not mined, produced or manufactured, wholly or in part, with prohibited forms of labor; i.e., slave, convict, forced child or indentured labor. A list of all withhold release orders issued by CBP and findings published in the Federal Register is available here.