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HQ 561867

March 2, 2001

MAR-2 RR:CR:SM 561867 KSG


Cheryl Ellsworth
Harris Ellsworth & Levin
Suite 1113
The Watergate
2600 Virginia Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037-1905

RE: Country of origin marking of vegetable juice; substantial transformation;

Dear Ms. Ellsworth:

This is in response to your letter on behalf of Empresas La Famosa, Inc. dated August 29, 2000, requesting a binding ruling regarding the country of origin marking of vegetable juice.


Empressa La Famosa plans to produce vegetable juice in the Dominican Republic or the United States from tomato paste, vegetable base, salt, ascorbic acid and water. The tomato paste would be a product of the U.S., Peru, Chile and/or other countries. The vegetable base would be a product of the U.S. or other countries.

Production of the vegetable juice involves dumping and pumping of tomato paste and vegetable base into a mixing tank, where they are mixed with water, fine salt and ascorbic acid. Each of the ingredients added comprises a precise percentage of the total volume of the mixture. The laboratory takes samples in order to determine the pH, brix, acid, brix/acid ratio, viscosity and organoleptic characteristics. The product is then homogenized and pasteurized. Cans are steam sterilized just before reaching the filling machine. The lids are fed into the seamer and sterilized by the product’s temperature. The product is canned at no less than 190 degrees Fahrenheit. The product travels through a rinsing station after the seaming operation and before the cooling process to remove any excess product from the outside of the cans. The product is cooled with water sprayers to create a vacuum. This process inhibits bacteriological growth by decreasing the oxygen available inside the can filled with the product.

You state that the above processing will take place either in the Dominican Republic or in the U.S.


Whether the processing described above constitutes a substantial transformation.


Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1304), as amended, 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 its 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.

Part 134, Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 134), implements the country of origin marking requirements of 19 U.S.C. 1304. Pursuant to 19 CFR 134.1(b), the country of origin is defined 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 must effect a substantial transformation in order to render such other country the country of origin within the meaning of this part.

Section 134.35(a), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.35(a)), provides that for articles other than goods of a NAFTA country, used in manufacture which are substantially transformed in the U.S., the manufacturer or processor in the U.S. who converts or combines the imported article will be considered the “ultimate purchaser” of the imported article and the article shall be excepted from marking. The outermost containers of the imported articles shall be marked in accord with Part 134, Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 134) (“Part 134").

As you are aware, a substantial transformation occurs when a new and different article of commerce emerges from a process with a new name, character or use different from that possessed by the article prior to processing. United States v. Gibson-Thomsen Co., Inc., 27 CCPA 267, C.A.D. 98 (1940).

In National Juice Products Association v. United States, 628 F. Supp. 978 (CIT 1986), the court considered whether foreign manufacturing concentrate processed into frozen concentrated orange juice in the U.S. and reconstituted orange juice was considered substantially transformed. The U.S. processing involved blending the manufacturing concentrate with other ingredients to create the end product; the manufacturing concentrate was mixed with purified and dechlorinated water, orange essences, orange oil, and in some cases, fresh juice. The foreign manufacturing concentrate was blended with domestic concentrate, with ratios of 50/50 or 30/70 (foreign/ domestic).

The court considered that the U.S. processing added relatively minor value to the product and that the manufacturing concentrate imparted the essential character to the juice and made it orange juice. The court concluded that the foreign manufacturing juice concentrate was not substantially transformed in the U.S. when it was processed into retail orange juice products.

In Headquarters Ruling Letter (“HRL”) 559841, dated July 25, 1996, Customs held that tomato paste concentrate, various spices, modified corn starch, beet powder and water were substantially transformed when made into a finished product called “tomato sauce, Spanish style.” Customs determined that mixing the ingredients together according to a specific formula, cooking, filtering, pasteurizing, canning and cooling made the finished product a different product distinct from the ingredients from which it was made.

In HRL 560612, dated May 1, 1998, Customs concluded that peppers, washed, blanched, de-stemmed, de-seeded, and cut into pieces and then mixed with spices and placed in a solution containing water, vinegar, oils, garlic, calcium chloride, benzoate of soda, coloring and preservatives were substantially transformed into pepper salad. Customs noted that the finished product has a longer shelf life, a different appearance, consistency and different uses and taste.

In HRL 735131, dated October 18, 1993, Customs determined that the combining of lime, fertilizer, wetting agents, perlite, and other additives to form potting soil mix resulted in a substantial transformation. The ingredients lost their separate identities and became an integral part of a new product, the potting soil mix.

This case is similar to the above rulings because various ingredients are mixed together based on a specific formula resulting in a finished product that differs from any of the individual ingredients. Unlike National Juice, none of the ingredients alone, including the tomato paste, impart the essential character of the finished vegetable juice. Tomato paste is a product derived from tomatoes, inedible without dilution and/or combination with other ingredients, that can be used as the primary or a secondary ingredient in a wide variety of food products, such as tomato sauce, stuffed peppers, salsa, meat loaf and soup. Vegetable juice is a liquid and a beverage while tomato paste is essentially a solid. The vegetable juice has a different flavor, consistency and use than each of its component ingredients. As a result of the mixing and homogenization processes, vegetable juice acquires unique levels of pH, brix, acid, viscosity, and other organoleptic characteristics not characteristic of tomato juice. The processing performed on the varied ingredients is far more significant than the mere dilution or reconstitution of a concentrate. The ingredients, including seasoning and a preservative, are measured according to a precise recipe, subjected to strict laboratory analysis, mixed, homogenized, pasteurized, and vacuum-packed. The result is a unique processed food product with a flavor, consistency, use and “essential character" different than its component ingredients. Therefore, we conclude that the individual ingredients are substantially transformed into vegetable juice, a new article with a new name, character and use.

If this processing is performed in the Dominican Republic, pursuant to 19 CFR 134.1(b), the Dominican Republic would be considered the country of origin of the imported vegetable juice. If the processing is performed in the U.S., pursuant to 19 CFR 134.35(a), the U.S would be the country of origin of the vegetable juice and the juice would be excepted from marking. However, all imported foreign ingredients would have to be marked with the country of origin on the outermost container in which they are imported.


The processing of the individual ingredients into vegetable juice, as described above, constitutes a substantial transformation. Pursuant to 19 CFR 134.1(b), if the processing is performed in the Dominican Republic, then the Dominican Republic would be the country of origin for marking purposes and the imported juice would have to be marked accordingly. Pursuant to 19 CFR 134.35(a), if the processing is performed in the U.S., only the outermost containers of any imported foreign ingredients would have to be marked with the country of origin.

A copy of this ruling letter should be attached to the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is 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, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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