On June 15, the U.S. International Trade Commission issued a general exclusion order (GEO) prohibiting the unlicensed importation of food processing equipment and packaging materials from China that are falsely advertised through the unlicensed use of the 3-A Symbol or ‘3A’ claim. According to McLean, Va.-based 3-A Sanitary Standards Inc. (3-A SSI), the order institutes a bond of 100% of entered value for the imported items subject to the GEO, effective immediately. The final order is subject to a 60-day period of Presidential review.
The GEO is based on initial determinations made by Administrative Law Judge David P. Shaw in February 2020 that the unlicensed use of the 3-A Symbol by certain Chinese companies “has substantially injured 3-A SSI’s domestic industry by harming the goodwill associated with the 3-A Certification Marks,” 3-A SSI said. Importantly, the full commission agreed that a sweeping GEO was justified over a more limited action, the public interest was served by such action and a bond should be imposed on the full value of the infringing items. The order will appear in the June 18 Federal Register.
The commission’s order was delivered to the president and to the U.S. Trade Representative, marking the termination of the investigation. The order was conveyed to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for immediate enforcement against the parties identified in the 3-A SSI complaint. Going forward, 3-A SSI said it expects to assist CBP in identifying other parties that should be reviewed under the order.
“Issuance of the GEO begins a new era for the U.S. industry to finally block these Chinese companies that make false claims and market counterfeit products,” said Bart S. Fisher, international trade counsel for 3-A SSI. “U.S. trade authorities at all levels deserve credit for supporting the remedies sought by 3-A SSI to protect its brand and the U.S. consumer.”
3-A SSI documented the proliferation of counterfeit products dating back to 2016 when more than two dozen Chinese companies were found marketing unlicensed products. In its complaint, 3-A SSI showed that counterfeit products were advertised and sold from multiple large online retailers and other specific websites directly to consumers and distributors.
“This GEO provides tools available for the first time in the history of 3-A SSI to stop the imports of these counterfeit products from China,” added Executive Director Timothy Rugh. “This order should be welcome news to everyone concerned about protecting the integrity of the 3-A Symbol and marks.”
U.S. regulatory sanitarians, including USDA, FDA and state authorities, rely on the 3-A Symbol program to support the inspections of equipment and processing systems around the United States and other processing facilities of foods imported into the United States, 3-A SSI said. The 3-A Symbol is a registered mark used since 1956 to identify equipment that meets 3-A Sanitary Standards for design and fabrication. Voluntary use of the 3-A Symbol on dairy and food equipment conveys assurance that equipment meets sanitary standards, provides accepted criteria to equipment manufacturers for sanitary design and establishes guidelines for uniform evaluation and compliance by sanitarians.