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NY R04129

June 15, 2006

MAR-2 RR:NC:2:231 R04129


Mr. James Brian Cunningham
Pride of the South Catfish
1075 Hwy 388
Brooksville, MS 39739


Dear Mr. Cunningham:

This is in response to your letter dated June 1, 2006 requesting a ruling on whether imported frozen catfish are required to be marked with the country of origin if they are later to be processed in the U.S. by a U.S. manufacturer.

The facts presented in your letter are the following:

1. Catfish fingerlings (Ictalurus punctatus) of U.S. origin will be purchased by Chinese growers.

2. The fingerlings will be brought to China and raised there in reservoirs, fed with the same formula feed used by U.S. fish farmers.

3. When these catfish reach marketable size, they will be harvested for processing in China.

4. They will be harvested, gutted, skinned, frozen, and then packaged into cartons holding 15 pounds of fish for export to the U.S.

5. After importation into the U.S., the frozen gutted fish will first be slacked out, and then processed into fillets, some of which may be cut into strips or portions. These fillets, strips or portions will, in turn, be seasoned, battered/ breaded and, in most cases, partially fried or fully cooked.

Regarding the issue of country of origin marking, we note Headquarters ruling letters, dated May 21, 2004 and February 3, 2005 (File Numbers 562998 and 563154, respectively), which addressed the country of origin of certain shrimp that were hatched, grown out and processed in two different countries. In “Country A,” shrimp eggs were fertilized and deposited into a hatchery, where they progressed into larva and, then, into post-larval shrimp. The small, or post-larval, shrimp remained in the hatchery for 10 to 25 days, until old enough to be withstand the rigors of shipment to another site in “Country B.” In the second country, the shrimp were grown out to a marketable weight, then harvested. After harvesting, in the first case, the shrimp were washed, graded by size, and frozen for export to the United States. The processing described in the second ruling was somewhat more extensive. The shrimp first had their heads removed, the shell was peeled away and the vein removed. The peeled and deveined shrimp were then either butterflied or placed on wooden skewers, frozen and packed for export to the United States. Under both scenarios, Headquarters found that the processing performed in “Country B” was insufficient to effect a substantial transformation of the shrimp into a product of that country. Accordingly, in both instances, for marking purposes, the country of origin remained “Country A.”

The facts in the present scenario are sufficiently analogous to those presented in these Headquarters ruling letters to support a similar finding. Fingerling fish of U.S. origin will be exported to China, and there raised to a marketable size,--at which time, the fish will be harvested and further processed by gutting and skinning. The whole, gutted fish will be frozen and packed for export to the United States. The skinning and gutting of the fish, (like peeling and deveining of the shrimp), represent a basic level of processing that advances the fish as a marketable commodity, without altering its commercial character as “whole catfish.” Accordingly, when shipped to the United States, these frozen fish will retain their tariff identity as whole catfish and, for country of origin marking purposes, as products of the United States. As such, no requirement for country of origin marking exists under the marking regulations administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. However, these fish may be subject to marking requirements under the Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service of the USDA.

You mention in your letter that, after importation into the U.S., the whole catfish will be processed into seasoned and breaded/battered fillets, strips and portions, in most cases partially fried or fully cooked. You further state that you wish to label this finished product as a “Product of the USA,” and as “Farm Raised Catfish.” In response, first, we previously noted that the statutory country of origin marking provisions administered by the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in 19 U.S.C. 1304 apply to the marking of goods that are identifiable as actual “products of” a foreign country or countries. In the situation described in your ruling request, the imported catfish are not Chinese products under the CBP marking statute, and are therefore beyond the scope of CBP’s marking regulations. The question you raise about whether this breaded catfish can legally be labeled “Product of the USA” falls within marking regulations administered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and inquiries regarding the appropriateness of such marking to food products processed from fish that have been raised in a foreign country must be referred to that agency, either electronically or to the mailing address provided on their website, www.ftc.gov:,

Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20580

The additional marking to indicate that these catfish were “Farm Raised,”--as well as country of origin marking,--are also regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service, pursuant to the Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements in Part 60, Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7 C.F.R. 60, Country of Origin Labeling for Fish and Shellfish). That agency must also be consulted for approval of the proposed marking. You may submit your inquiry by e-mail to the following address

This merchandise is subject to The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (The Bioterrorism Act), which is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Information on the Bioterrorism Act can be obtained by calling FDA at 301-575-0156, or at the Web site www.fda.gov/oc/bioterrorism/bioact.html.

This ruling is being issued under the provisions of Part 177 of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 177).

A copy of the ruling or the control number indicated above should be provided with the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is imported. If you have any questions regarding the ruling, contact National Import Specialist Thomas P. Brady at 646-733-3030.


Robert B. Swierupski

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