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HQ 559287

December 15, 1995

MAR-2-05 RR:TC:SM 559287 DEC


Mr. R.I. Hasson
Alba Forwarding Company, Incorporated
147-39 175th Street
Jamaica, New York 11434

RE: Country of Origin Marking; Pepper Grinder; Substantial Transformation; Simple Assembly; 19 CFR 134.1(b); C.S.D. 89-111; C.S.D. 84-50; C.S.D. 84-44

Dear Mr. Hasson:

This is in response to your letter dated June 2, 1995, in which you seek a ruling with respect to the appropriate country of origin marking for a pepper grinder with peppercorns.


Your client, Woodward & Charles, Ltd., will be importing a pepper grinder filled with peppercorns. You state that the origin of the pepper grinder is "GB" and that the origin of the peppercorns will vary (for purposes of this ruling, we will presume the pepper is not of Canadian, Mexican, or United States origin). You did not indicate, however, the countries from which the peppercorns may originate. You have provided Customs with a sample of the pepper grinder complete with peppercorns that is marked "Made in England" on the bottom of the grinding mechanism. During a telephone conversation with an attorney from my staff, you indicated that the peppercorns will be inserted into the pepper grinder in England.


What are the country of origin marking requirements applicable to the imported pepper grinder with peppercorns as described above?


Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), provides that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin imported into the U.S. shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article (or container) will permit, in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the U.S. the English name of the country of origin of the article. The purpose of the marking statute is outlined in United States v. Friedlaender & Co., 27 CCPA 297, 302, C.A.D. 104 (1940), where the court stated that: "Congress intended that the ultimate purchaser should be able to know by an inspection of the marking on imported goods the country of which the goods is the product. The evident purpose is to mark the goods so that at the time of purchase the ultimate purchaser may, by knowing where the goods were produced, be able to buy or refuse to buy them, if such marking should influence his will."

Section 134.1(b), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.1(b)), defines the country of origin of an article as the country of manufacture, production, or growth of any article of foreign origin entering the U.S. Further work or material added to an article in another country must effect a substantial transformation in order to render such other country the country of origin for country of origin marking purposes. A substantial transformation occurs when articles lose their identity and become new articles having a new name, character or use. United States v. Gibson-Thomsen Co., 27 CCPA 267, 270 (1940).

The "packaging" of the peppercorns into a pepper grinder in England is a very simple operation that will not substantially transform the pepper into a good of England. Therefore, the pepper grinder (or its container) must disclose to the ultimate purchaser the origin of both the pepper grinder and the pepper. To the extent that pepper of various countries is commingled prior to being added to the pepper grinder, the country or countries of origin must be indicated to the ultimate purchaser since commingling a fungible commodity like pepper will not result in a substantial transformation.

Generally, Customs policy is that absent other circumstances, it is not acceptable for purposes of 19 U.S.C. 1304 to mark an article with the legend "Product of ____ or ____". In C.S.D. 89-111 we ruled that certain effervescent enzymatic cleaner tablets, products of both the U.S. and West Germany, were required to be marked for retail sale with the actual country of origin of West Germany. Although Customs acknowledged that the seller could avoid expense by using the disjunctive marking, "Made in ___, or ____", Customs was not satisfied that fully accurate marking would amount to an economic prohibition, and therefore required the item to be marked with only the actual country of origin of each individual item.

In two other rulings, C.S.D. 84-50, regarding fertilizer, and C.S.D. 84-44, regarding honey, the product was a repacked blend from multiple countries, and marking of the major source countries was required. In those cases, Customs did not agree that it was economically prohibitive to mark the articles with a substantial degree of accuracy. Since no information has been provided regarding the number of different countries from which the pepper originates and the expense associated with marking the pepper grinder or its container with the country of origin of the pepper, Customs will not address these issues in this ruling letter.


Based on the information provided, the processing operation of adding the peppercorns to the pepper grinder in England is a simple packaging operation that does not constitute an origin-conferring substantial transformation. The imported pepper grinder (or its container) with pepper must be marked with England, the country of origin of the pepper grinder, as well as the country or countries or origin of the pepper.

A copy of this ruling letter should be attached to the entry documents filed at the time the goods are entered. If the documents have been filed without a copy, this ruling should be brought to the attention of the Customs officer handling the transaction.


John Durant

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