Customs Blocks Stevia Imports Over Use of Convict Labor

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By Brian Flood

June 1 — Imports of the sugar substitute stevia, both extracts and derivatives, produced by PureCircle Ltd. in China will be detained at all U.S. ports of entry, after Customs and Border Protection announced June 1 that those products are made with the use of convict labor.

Customs Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said companies must examine their supply chains “to understand product sourcing and the labor used to generate their products.” He said the agency “is committed to ensuring U.S. values outweigh economic expediency and as part of its trade enforcement responsibilities, will work to ensure products made with forced labor do not cross our borders.”

Producers use the leaves of the stevia plant to produce a sugar substitute.

U.S. law requires Customs to block imports that are made in whole or part by forced labor, including convict labor, indentured labor and forced child labor.

Previously, such imports could have received an exemption if U.S. demand couldn't be met without such imports. That loophole was closed in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (62 ITD, 3/31/16).

Customs also recently blocked certain imports of potassium, potassium hydroxide, potassium nitrate and soda ash from China suspected of being made with forced prison labor (72 ITD, 4/14/16).

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Flood in Washington at bflood@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bna.com

For More Information

The Customs' announcement is available at http://src.bna.com/fvD.