Customs Clearance Stories from the Gallagher Archives. 

Oh, Yuck! (Or, Why We Appreciate U.S. Government Regulations)

As customs brokers, our role is to present import shipments to U.S. Customs & Border Protection for clearance into the U.S.  In that process, we also notify any other government agency that may regulate any specific product.  For example, all items for human consumption must also be released by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

This is an old story, but it illustrates a truth that is very valid today.  Years ago while working as a customs broker in Seattle we were to clear a shipment of canned mushrooms imported by a client in New York City.  After presenting the documents for this shipment to the FDA they informed us they would examine the shipment.  When they examined the merchandise they took some sample cans of mushrooms and forwarded them to their laboratory for analysis.  In the meantime they put a “hold” on the shipment.

Of course our client in New York was irate at the delay.  This client insisted we do everything possible to push the FDA for a fast release, as they had orders to fill from this shipment.

Microscopic what?!

A few days later we received the results from the FDA lab:  the mushrooms contained microscopic maggots and would be refused admission into the U.S.  We called our client in New York to advise him of this fact, and he promptly went from irate to ballistic.  His first reaction was to ask, “What will it take to get his shipment into the U.S.?”  Who knows what he had in mind with such a question. We told him there was no way he was getting this shipment into the U.S.  He responded by saying to wait and he would be in touch.

After several days our client in New York called to say, “Here is the address in another country where you are to send this shipment of canned mushrooms.”  We never heard any more about the shipment after it was exported, but we can’t help but assume this shipment of mushrooms (microscopic maggots and all) were sold and consumed by unsuspecting citizens of some other country. Yuck!

Since that time all of us at Gallagher have been extra appreciative of the good work our government does for us in protecting us from impure, unhealthy or dangerous goods.  We all chafe at the work involved in notifying these agencies, and the delays and expense they can cause.  But in the end, we are all better off for it in so many ways.  And the next time you eat imported mushrooms, you can feel confident that they are clean and wholesome because our government is watching to ensure they are.