Background

The Court of International Trade has ruled that four 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).

The products at issue are pouches containing cooked tuna mixed with celery, water chestnuts, and a starch-based dressing. The tuna is chopped to a thickness of 0.8 to 1.5 inches and hand mixed with the other ingredients. The dressings contain about 12-13 percent soybean oil, but no additional oil is added to the dressings beyond their ingredients, to the final phase of packaging, or to any stage or production. The final products take the form of either retail pouch packs that contain individual pouches of tuna or lunch-to-go kits that include a tuna pouch and a mint, spoon, napkin, and crackers.

The CIT concludes that the tuna is not minced because the pieces vary significantly in size, shape, and texture and are produced by a process that includes both chopping and hand-mixing. The CIT also finds that the finished products are packed in oil, citing previous cases holding that (1) goods are considered “in oil” even if the liquid substance does not consist entirely of oil, (2) there is no minimum threshold for the amount of oil that must be present, and (3) if fish is mixed with a dressing or sauce that contains oil it is considered packed in oil, regardless of the cooking method.

For more information on classification issues, please contact Deb Stern at (305) 894-1007. Click here to register for ST&R’s upcoming webinar on the basics of classification.

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