Us customs baby food

Baby Formula | Transportation Security Administration

Carry On Bags: Yes (Special Instructions)

Checked Bags: Yes

Formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches) in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. Formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches) are considered medically necessary liquids. This also applies to breast milk and formula cooling accessories, such as ice packs, freezer packs, and gel packs (regardless of presence of breast milk). Your child or infant does not need to be present or traveling with you to bring breast milk, formula and/or related supplies.

Inform the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process that you are carrying formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches) in excess of 3. 4 ounces. Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from your other belongings. TSA officers may need to test the liquids for explosives or concealed prohibited items.

Although not required, to expedite the screening process, it is recommended that formula and breast milk be transported in clear, translucent bottles and not plastic bags or pouches. Liquids in plastic bags or pouches may not be able to be screened by Bottle Liquid Scanners, and you may be asked to open them (if feasible) for alternate screening such as Explosive Trace Detection and Vapor Analysis for the presence of liquid explosives. Screening will never include placing anything into the medically necessary liquid.

TSA X-ray machines do not adversely affect food or medicines. However, if you do not want the formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches) to be X-rayed or opened, please inform the TSA officer. Additional steps will be taken to clear the liquid and you or the traveling guardian will undergo additional screening procedures, to include Advanced Imaging Technology screening and additional/enhanced screening of other carry-on property.

Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches) – regardless of the presence of breast milk – are also allowed in carry-ons, along with liquid-filled teethers. If these items are partially frozen or slushy, they are subject to the same screening as described above.

Please see traveling with children for more information.

Travelers requiring special accommodations or concerned about the security screening process at the airport may request assistance by contacting TSA Cares online at or by phone at (855) 787-2227 or federal relay 711.

For more prohibited items, please go to the 'What Can I Bring?' page.

Importing Baby Formula to USA: Overcoming the Challenges

Raising babies is tough on the best days. Raising babies during an infant formula shortage is beyond tough for those who rely on this crucial commodity. Imported baby formula must meet or exceed domestic production standards to pass Customs. While challenging, it is very possible.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates both domestic and imported baby formula. Any imported formula must meet the labeling requirements of the Office of Nutritional Products and Applied Nutrition (ONPLDS). Infant formula manufacturing requirements are set by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). 

Get the details you need to import baby formula and avoid getting products rejected at the port. 

Table Of Contents

  1. Importing Baby Formula to USA: Filling a Crucial Need
    • FDA Approved Infant Formula Ingredients
  2. July 2022 Update: Temporary Duty-Free Status for Baby Formula
    • Eligible HTS Codes by Chapter
  3. Where Can I Import Baby Formula From?
    • Top 5 Nations U.S. Imports Infant Formula From*
    • Infant Formula Import Challenges
  4. Is Importing European Baby Formula Illegal?
  5. Which Imported Formulas Have FDA Approval?
  6. Make Babies Happy With Help From USA Customs Clearance


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Importing Baby Formula to USA: Filling a Crucial Need

The terms baby formula and infant formula are often used interchangeably. For the purposes of this article, both terms refer to formulas designed for the needs of children from birth to 12 months of age. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics states children under the age of one should receive the majority of their nutrients from natural breast milk or FDA-approved infant formula. Standard cow milk or other milk substitute is not recommended before the age of one. 

At any given point, the U.S. baby population is about 3.5 million under the age of one. If there are shortages in baby formula, it’s a big deal. Of course, not every baby needs store-bought formula. There are many mamas out there that exclusively breastfeed. 

For parents who don’t have the option, or don’t want to breastfeed, baby formula is a literal lifesaver. It then comes down to choosing the best options, and many families are looking into imported European formulas. 

The market for imported baby formulas has been present, but due to strict FDA requirements, it has remained incredibly small. In fact, of all the food products in the United States, infant formula is considered to be the most regulated. 

Some of the challenges preventing widespread import of infant formula include:

  • Strict formula labeling requirements
  • A lack of FDA approval for several major European brands
  • Imposed tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) which make imports cost-prohibitive

The U.S. infant formula shortage is not expected to be a long-term problem, but current needs have people looking more closely at regulation. 

These challenges can be overcome whether you are looking to secure a personal supply or import commercially.

It’s recommended that you seek the advice of a licensed customs broker who is familiar with regulated imports and TRQs. Following all legal requirements isn’t only the right thing to do - it keeps imported formula safe for babies everywhere. 

FDA Approved Infant Formula Ingredients

For starters, the FDA has a strict list of ingredients for infant formula. There are 29 different ingredients that must be included in all formulas. Each ingredient also has a minimum level requirement. Some of the ingredients also have a maximum level allowed. 

The difference between European and American ingredient lists is small, but it keeps brands from approval. Brands made from goat’s milk or based on whole milk, do not have current approval in the U.S. 

For others, it's the ingredients that European formulas don’t have which make them appealing. Corn syrup, a sugar commonly used as an additive in American-made foods, is one example. It’s banned in the European Union from being used in milk-based formulas. 

July 2022 Update: Temporary Duty-Free Status for Baby Formula

As of July 22, 2022, the CBP will allow the duty-free entry of qualifying infant formula. There are no additional safeguard duties being imposed, but duty-free status is limited to specific HTS Codes. 

Eligible HTS Codes by Chapter

Chapter 99
Chapter 19
Chapter 21

The suspension of duty on certain infant formulas will remain in effect until December 31, 2022. In addition to the import duties, other safeguard fees will also be suspended. 

These include the following. 

  • Import Quotas
  • Tariff-Rate Quotas
  • Any duties, fees, exaction, or charges otherwise applied

These suspensions are part of the Formula Act, which was passed earlier this year to ease the effect of the baby formula shortage currently affecting the U.S.

Where Can I Import Baby Formula From?

Despite the challenges, there are ways to legally import baby formula into the U.S. from Europe and elsewhere. By far the easiest way to bring infant formula into the U.S. is as a personal traveler. 

Of course, this severely limits the amounts you can bring in. Most baby formulas are milk-based, so the U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies them as dairy products, a highly regulated commodity. 

International travelers can technically import powdered baby formula from anywhere in small quantities and if properly labeled.  

When declaring your products for Customs, you must state whether you are importing for personal or commercial use. Only baby formula declared for personal use is allowed entry with no issue. 

To import infant formula for commercial use, importers need to follow the FDA’s rules governing all food product imports. Not including the specific label requirements, there are still very specific rules for food imports. 

  • Production/manufacturing facilities must register with the FDA before import
  • Importers must file a Prior Notice form with the FDA before the shipment has arrived

The U.S. does import small amounts of baby formula. Foreign production facilities must undergo strict inspections. Failure to meet and/or produce all necessary information results in denied approval. These are described as Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Regulations under 21 CFR Part 110. 

Facilities provide:

  • Exact brands and products to be shipped to the U. S. 
  • Shipping method
  • Frequency and quantity of shipments
  • Importer of Record Registration
  • U.S. Port of Destination
  • List of domestic distributors (if possible)

So long as the ingredients and labeling meet FDA standards, importers can go through with the process. Below is a list of some of the nations that export to the U.S.

Top 5 Nations U.S. Imports Infant Formula From*

Country of OriginValue of Import (millions)
*Based on OEC numbers from 2020

Despite the approval, imports from these nations are still very limited. Due to current ongoing conflicts in Eastern Europe, imports from Poland have slowed but there is potential elsewhere. Mexico and Chile have free-trade agreements with the U.S. allowing importers to avoid heavy import tariffs attached to infant formula

Parents can buy infant formula from Canada online, but there are no commercial imports of baby formula from Canada into the U.S


Ingredients And Labeling Must Meet FDA Standards

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Infant Formula Import Challenges

Many people are asking why the U.S. isn’t ramping up imports to cover shortages. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. 

The challenges to importing infant formula are because of strict regulations and its status as a dairy product.   

  • Tariff-Rate Quotas (TRQs): Imports from any countries that don’t have Free Trade Agreements (FTA) pay a 17. 5% tariff on the low end of the tier - and a 35% tariff on the high end. Only two formula-producing countries are exempt from this rate - Mexico and Chile. 
  • Import Rate Restriction: The import limit of infant formula (not including Mexico) is 100,000 kilograms - a little over 220,000 pounds of formula. Outside of an FTA, there is no way to import enough formula to make a profit after paying TRQs. 
  • FDA Regulations: The FDA does not accept European Union nutrition standards, which some might argue are actually more stringent than U.S. counterparts. Even if infant formulas meet the FDA nutritional requirements, any misprint in a label is cause for rejection by Customs. 

None of these restrictions are new, but they are coming under the mass spotlight now because of shortages. 

Existing supply chain issues became worse with pandemic interruptions. A shutdown of the Abbott Nutrition factory in Michigan - responsible for over 40% of all formula produced in the U. S. - caused more issues. It’s a perfect storm of factors affecting a very vulnerable part of the population. 

While many are calling for rapid change, government regulations don’t fluctuate with the times. 

Is Importing European Baby Formula Illegal?

Long before formula shortages were a problem, demand for European infant formulas had been on the rise. As mentioned, there are many who believe that European infant formulas are better for babies. 

Among the things preferred are:

  • The lack of corn syrup
  • A variety of organic formula options (milk from pasture-raised cows)
  • The availability of alternate milk bases (such as goat milk)
  • Regulated amounts of DHA  

These are enough to make many parents seek out European brands.

To be clear, importing European baby formula for commercial use is not illegal. That being said, it is very difficult to do so while staying within the legal boundaries of the FDA. This has created a ‘black market’ of sorts for infant formula brought to the U.S. through alternative means - making it illegal. 

There are multiple dangers related to this that go beyond getting formula seized by the CBP.

  • Safe Transport: There is no guarantee that the products have been transported safely. As dairy products, liquid and powder formulas are more prone to spoilage. 
  • Product Recalls: If there is a recall, chances are you wouldn’t know since a U.S.-based warning won’t get issued for something they don’t realize is present.
  • Language Barrier: Mixing instructions and warnings are likely to be in another language. Measurements are different too since the E.U. uses the metric system, so your mixing portions could be wrong.   

If you truly have your heart set on European formulas, be prepared to pay a pretty penny to get it imported.

Which Imported Formulas Have FDA Approval?

The FDA does not keep a ready list of approved formulas. There are companies that produce infant formula for multiple brand names as well as different varieties within a brand. Keeping a list is confusing because it would consist of manufacturer names, not the brand names people are more familiar with. 

Abbott Nutrition, mentioned earlier, produces the popular U.S. formula, Similac. It also has a factory in Ireland where it has started ramping up production for import. However, not all formulas produced there will be available for U.S. markets. 

If you are interested in importing infant formula, look first for the formula. Determine FDA status before beginning the import process. Speaking with a licensed and experienced customs consultant can give you a starting point in your search. 

Whatever you do, don’t turn to homemade infant formulas. There are no homemade infant formula recipes that have been approved by the FDA. Babies have very specific nutritional needs, some more than others. Homemade formula mixes cannot be analyzed to determine whether or not they have the necessary nutrients.  


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Make Babies Happy With Help From USA Customs Clearance

Every baby deserves to eat food that is healthy and safe. Every parent should be able to provide that. Get help from USA Customs Clearance to make both possible. 

Our expert Customs Brokers have navigated all kinds of challenging import situations. Get started with a 30-minute, 1-on-1 consultation. You can outline a plan, choose an exporting nation, and begin the legal documentation process. 

Get assistance with:

  • Importer of Record Registration
  • Customs Bonds
  • Manifest Confidentiality 
  • And more!

Speak with someone today online, or give us a call at (855) 912-0406 and be part of the baby formula solution. 

VIEW / American babies deprived of baby food :: In the world

America plunged into an unprecedented crisis for her, affecting the most defenseless members of society - children. Millions of little Americans were left without specialized food; baby food is almost impossible to find in stores. New York has even declared a state of emergency because of this. What are the reasons for what is happening and why do American politicians remember about Ukraine because of this?

Just a few years ago, such news could only appear in the pages of a fantastic literary work or in the script of a disaster movie. But the rapidly changing world has accustomed everyone to the fact that the most impossible stories become reality. A few days ago, the mayor of New York, one of the largest cities on our planet with a population of over 18 million, signed a decree declaring a state of emergency on its territory.

The reason for this decision sounds shocking - the lack of baby food in the city. An even bigger shock for Americans for months now is that the lack of baby food is acutely felt throughout the United States. Americans are horrified to realize that their youngest fellow citizens lack the food they need to survive.

"The nationwide shortage of infant formula is causing unimaginable pain and anxiety to families across New York City, and we must act now," Mayor Adams said in a message to the city's residents. “The emergency order will give us the opportunity to crack down on any retailer who wants to capitalize on this crisis by driving up the price of this product. Our message to mothers and families struggling is simple: our city will do everything in its power to help you through this difficult time.”

Fighting speculators under the introduced state of emergency, the authorities are threatening to act harshly. New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Welfare (NYDCWP) Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga is urging residents who notice significant increases in the price of, or illegal sales of, infant formula to immediately report them to the special short number 311. Explained that "overpriced" means a price that is 10% or more higher than what a resident of the city could have purchased a similar product in the period from 30 to 60 days before the declaration of a state of emergency. What measures will be taken against unscrupulous sellers, the department does not report.

New York was the first city in which the situation with a vital product required the introduction of such drastic measures as a state of emergency. However, the situation in the city and the state of the same name is not unique to America today - infant formula is not available in almost the entire country, having previously jumped in price by 40% by early April.

The shortage of baby food stocks that began in 2021 has reached critical levels this year in the states of Iowa, North and South Dakota, and Missouri. In Tennessee and Texas, out-of-stock rates are already in excess of 54% and continue to skyrocket thanks to the growing panic in the country. In another 26 states, more than 50% of stocks are already missing, while back in January 2022 out-of-stock was 23%.

But in February thunder struck. Abbott Laboratories, the world's largest baby food manufacturer, has suspended production and recalled a huge batch of infant formulas produced by it, known throughout the world Similac, because of the pathogenic bacteria found in them that are dangerous to children's health. The scandal took on such serious proportions after several children were hospitalized after drinking Abbott formulas. An investigation is currently underway into whether the deaths of at least two babies were related to the use of Abbott products.

It should be noted that the baby food market in the US is problematic due to its steady decline. According to US Census Bureau estimates released in March this year, in half of all states and almost three-quarters of all counties between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, deaths exceeded births. Studying statistics with a longer time period of coverage is also disappointing for Americans - since the mid-2000s, the number of newborns has been declining every year, with the exception of a short-term surge in 2014.

At the same time, the US baby food market is virtually monopolized by several large manufacturers. Abbott, founded back in 1888, has been among the industry leaders for many years. Summing up the past year, Abbott Laboratories CEO Robert Ford called it "an outstanding year for the company. " Indeed, the company's profits rose steadily, with a net income reported in the final report to investors of $7.07 billion.

With about 40% market share, along with Mead Johnson and Nestle, the company participates in the government's nationwide WIC program for women, babies and children. This program provides supplemental nutrition for expectant mothers, women who are breastfeeding from low-income families, and children under the age of five. It is also under this program that about half of all infant formula in the United States is sold.

The cessation of production of mixtures under the Abbott brand, therefore, did not hit the investors in the first place, who managed to share considerable profits. First of all, the most vulnerable categories of the population of the states - women, children and low-income families - became victims of the acute shortage of baby formula. American doctors are sounding the alarm - the number of food poisoning in infants is growing rapidly, as parents from poor families are trying to make substitutes for mixtures from dairy products in artisanal conditions. Obviously, no one controls the shelf life, sterility, and the very safety of the ingredients used for the digestion of children.

Parents facing the dreaded prospect of infant hunger are trying by all means to find an alternative to a product that is disappearing from the shelves. Within a few weeks, the flow of Americans back to Mexico was established - in this neighboring country of the United States, baby food has not yet become a shortage. Due to logistical and customs difficulties, it is not necessary to count on mass deliveries of the “formula” from Europe. There is no certainty that the EU countries, which continue to “shoot themselves in the foot” with the sanctions war, will be happy to share strategic reserves.

It is not known how long the FDA (US Food & Drug Administration) - the US federal agency responsible for product safety control in the sale of food and drugs - will deal with the elimination of Abbott's production problems: according to some forecasts, this will not happen before July. At the same time, realizing the scale of the crisis and the need to increase the supply of mixtures to the United States from abroad, the agency announced that until November 14 it will temporarily change its extremely strict rules and will consider the possibility of importing products of each manufacturer individually, at its discretion.

The Biden administration, extremely concerned about the proxy war with Russia and the process of creating new alliances against China, by all indications, does not yet fully realize the scale of the crisis that could erupt in connection with the current situation.

The steps taken so far have not brought a positive result, but rather, on the contrary, have caused even greater irritation of the Americans. Several hundred containers delivered by US military aircraft from the German Ramstein base, another strategic operation "Flying Baby Food" to deliver children's "formula" can only temporarily moderate the panic of parents and plug gaps in the food collapse.

The strategic solution to the problem lies on a different plane. The few congressmen who opposed the allocation of huge funds under the so-called Lend-Lease Act in defense of democracy in Ukraine also appealed to the US president to finally pay attention to him.

Georgia Republican Party member Marjorie Taylor Greene, voting against this adventurous project in Congress, told her colleagues and the president, “We have $40 billion, but no baby food for American mothers and babies. There is an unknown amount of money for CIA activities in Ukraine, but no food for American babies and mothers. There are $54 million in spending to fight COVID-19for Ukraine, but no food for American babies and mothers. There is $900 million for nonprofits in Ukraine, but no food for American babies and mothers. There is $8.7 billion in economic support and funding for Ukraine, but no food for American mothers and babies… The American people do not support paying for the constant US interference in the foreign affairs of other countries while our own government is ruining our country.

Will the voices of hundreds of thousands of American women and mothers be heard if the threat of child hunger ceases to be an emergency within the boundaries of New York alone?

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Hungry children of a superpower: the United States is facing a baby food crisis

There is not enough food for the smallest in the country - the supply of infant formula has almost halved. Parents are encouraged to temporarily use cow's milk to feed their babies, but if possible, not to do so for a long time. Mothers dilute mixtures, feed their children less, spend several hours a day looking for food for their babies. Urgent flights of military aircraft deliver shipments of baby food from abroad by order of the President.

Empty shelves for baby food in a New Jersey store, USA

© Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

All of this is not a reality in any third world country, but the daily life of the last weeks of many families in the United States. The causes of the crisis are exclusively internal - monopoly in the economy, plus excessive, but, as it turned out, ineffective state regulation, as well as protectionism.

A real American taste

In February, when the US administration began to mobilize support for Ukraine from Western countries, as well as increasing sanctions pressure on Russia, the news about the shutdown of the plant for the production of Abbott infant formula in the town of Sturgis, Michigan, passed almost unnoticed. Only about 10 thousand people live in Sturgis, located between Chicago and Detroit, and hardly anyone would remember this town if it were not for the plant. Abbott controls about 42% of the US infant formula market, and half of its products are made at this facility - the largest in the country in this area.

The story began with the fact that four children were poisoned by mixtures from the plant, two of them fatally, and the enterprise temporarily stopped working. So the market lost about 20% of the supply.

Read also

Bread or gadgets: what is going to replace globalization?

The situation was aggravated by other circumstances closely related to the peculiarities of the economic and state structure of the United States. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could not agree on the opening of the enterprise for three months. And prohibitive trade tariffs, which were introduced to support American companies like Abbott, prevented exports from replacing their missing products - Abbott and three other similar corporations together control 90% of the US infant formula market. Another factor was that current social assistance programs in a number of states provide benefits to low-income families, by virtue of contracts in force with Abbott, only when purchasing products from this manufacturer.

It is also worth noting that breastfeeding is not common in the US, as there is no paid parental leave. And measures to promote breastfeeding in the workplace have had limited impact and are more of a symbol of corporate progressiveness than a widespread support for mothers, especially when it comes to low-paying jobs.

An Invisible Crisis

The baby food crisis lingered for three months before hitting the front pages of the newspapers and becoming a topic of discussion in Congress (while, for example, Ukraine's legislature had already approved several billion military aid). Parents bought up all the available stocks and in a matter of hours they are sorting out new batches. Stores were forced to impose restrictions on the volume of sales of mixtures in one hand, but the shelves are still empty.

If there was a 2-8% monthly mix shortage at the Sturgis plant closure due to supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then in April this figure rose to 30%, by May 8 - up to 43%, by May 15 - 45%.

Read also

The head of the IMF called on countries to lower trade barriers to combat rising prices

The crisis developed, but did not attract much attention from the middle and rich sections of society, until the deficit grew enough to affect everyone. In large cities with a large number of retailers, which close numerous supply chains from different manufacturers, it is still possible to find the right product, although this may take some time, and salaries are usually higher there. The situation is much worse in small towns or ethnic enclaves, where there is often one large supermarket for thousands of inhabitants, which has contracts with a limited number of suppliers (for example, this was the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, where a white supremacist shot ten people on May 14) . The hardest hit are the poor, members of racial and ethnic minorities, living in disadvantaged areas with poorly developed infrastructure and dependent on federal or municipal social programs.

In recent days, there has been another explanation why the crisis has been left unaddressed for a long time - despite all the talk in the United States about gender equality, gender roles and distribution of responsibilities, it is women who feed the children, and it is mostly men who make decisions and occupy leadership positions. In the current composition of the US Congress, only 144 of 539 seats (27%) are held by women - this is the maximum number in the history of the American legislature.

Who is to blame and what to do

Only last week, the federal authorities noticed the growing crisis. The White House ordered to organize an urgent delivery of infant formula from abroad, involving military aviation in this. Thousands of tons of baby food have already arrived in the United States over the weekend from the Ramstein base in Germany. Families in need who cannot afford subsidized formula were promised new benefits. The FDA has received an additional $28 million to improve the way it inspects and approves US and foreign products. The FDA has already agreed to reopen the Sturgis plant from this Monday, although it could be weeks before new formulas hit the shelves. US President Joe Biden activated the Defense Production Act of 1950, which allows the federal government to directly intervene in the production and distribution of products. Such measures have already been practiced in the event of shortages in the past.

© Jon Cherry/Getty Images

The search for the guilty began. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, the leader of the Democrats in Congress, Nancy Pelosi, threatened Abbott with criminal prosecution - after all, it was precisely because of their problems in production that the plant stopped. However, these are only assumptions - at a congressional hearing, an FDA representative said that the investigation into the incident with the poisoning of babies has not yet been completed. He also did not answer about the reasons for the three-month-long inspection of the plant, again referring to the secrecy of the investigation.

Read also

How Americans think: what's on Biden's mind and tongue

Republicans traditionally blame Democrats: federal regulator failed in mission; democrats, boasting of being close to the people, cannot feed children in poor families. In fact, this new crisis is the very last thing the Democratic Party needs ahead of the midterm elections this fall. She responds with accusations against large corporations like Abbott that have destroyed competition, are trying to interfere with government regulation, and also seek tax breaks at the expense of voters.

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