United States International Trade Commision Rulings And Harmonized Tariff Schedule
faqs.org  Rulings By Number  Rulings By Category  Tariff Numbers
faqs.org > Rulings and Tariffs Home > Rulings By Number > 1994 HQ Rulings > HQ 0954939 - HQ 0955015 > HQ 0954994

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

HQ 954994

OCTOBER 18, 1993

CLA-2 CO:R:C:F 954994 EAB


TARIFF NO.: 2918.21.5000

Area Director
New York Seaport
6 World Trade Center
New York, New York 10048

RE: Suitable for medicinal use; HRL 952892; HRL 086920; salicylic acid; U.S.P. grade

Dear Director:

In HQ 952892 (May 10, 1993) Customs held that salicylic acid that did not meet the United States Pharmacopoeia (U.S.P.) standards was classifiable under subheading 2918.21.5000, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), a provision for salicylic acid other than that suitable for medicinal use, rather than under subheading 2918.21.1000, HTSUSA, a provision for salicylic acid that is suitable for medicinal use.

This Office has been asked to examine HQ 952892, supra, with particular attention being given to the phrase "suitable for medicinal use" viz-a-viz the U.S.P. We take this opportunity to do so with respect to the separate chemically defined compound salicylic acid.


Salicylic acid of purity or grade less than the U.S.P. standard has been imported into the United States.


When is salicylic acid "suitable for medicinal use" for tariff classification purposes under the HTSUSA?


In HQ 952892, supra, Customs found that salicylic acid that has a melting point lower than the melting point of U.S.P. grade salicylic acid was not "suitable for medicinal use."

In HQ 086920 (July 17, 1990), Customs informed a member of the public requesting clarification of the meaning of that phrase that "There is * * * no compelling reason potentially to expand the scope of 'suitable for medicinal use' to include all substances that are of U.S.P. grade."

With the exception of actual use provisions, classification is based upon the condition of the goods as imported and not upon the use of the goods after importation. Therefore, we take the foregoing statements to mean that salicylic acid that does not meet the U.S.P. standard is not suitable for medicinal use and is not classifiable under subheading 2819.21.5000, HTSUSA. Salicylic acid that meets or exceeds the U.S.P. standard may not necessarily be suitable for medicinal use and is not per se classifiable under subheading 2819.21.1000, HTSUSA.

We have considered counsel's arguments presented in a meeting at Headquarters, especially the claim that further processing requirements after importation are not relevant to whether a basic product is "suitable for medicinal use." In the context of HRL 952892, the salicylic acid was exported to Mexico to be marketed to the public as aspirin in Mexico. In this case the product was not salable as pharmaceutical grade salicylic acid in the U.S. The record does not reflect whether or not this is the case in Mexico. The type of further processing has the greatest relevance here, because some further processing steps would be immaterial to the question of whether a product would be suitable for medicinal use. For example, a product that is suitable for medicinal use may require such further steps as tabletting or dividing into measured doses to be put up for retail sale. Also, for example, the addition of a buffering agent to acetylsalicylic acid that already met U.S.P. standards would not be an indication that the basic product was not suitable for medicinal use.

Counsel further advanced the position that any amount of further processing might be done to a product to prepare it for medicinal use, so long as the underlying substance will, with some alteration, ultimately be medicinally used. Counsel's reliance on a case, decided in 1945 by our former appeals court, under an act since twice superseded, appears to be misplaced. There, the court decided that a certain female sex hormone, derived from a pregnant mare's urine, possessed a medicinal property and was chiefly used for medicinal purposes, thereby securing its classification as a "drug" in Paragraph 34 of the 1930 Act. The only point or correspondence in that case with the one at hand is that the government's unsuccessful position in that case was that Paragraph 34 required the product to be ready for medicinal use without further processing and that is what counsel interprets the government's position to be in this case. As indicated above, however, that is not the government's position here, because the presence of further processing by itself does not settle the :suitable for medicinal use" issue.

There is no dispute that the substance under consideration is classified at the 6-digit level under "[S]alicylic acid and its salts", subheading 2918.21. However, under the protestant's reading of the statute, all salicylic acid and its salts would be classified under 2918.21.10 as suitable for medicinal use, if any amount of further processing may be undertaken after importation to disclose the true identity of the substance. This reading of the "suitable for" subheading would rob the "other" subheading of any meaning and defy common logic.

With regard to the sampling question raised, Customs accepts the sample provided by the importer as being adequate and representative of the product in the entry under protest.


Salicylic acid with a melting point lower than that of U.S.P. grade salicylic acid is not "suitable for medicinal use."

Salicylic acid that meets or exceeds the U.S.P. standard and is suitable for medicinal use in its condition as imported is classifiable under subheading 2918.21.1000, HTSUSA.


John Durant, Director

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: