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Can I bring boxes of green slimming coffee to my relatives in the USA?

Around 200 boxes of green coffee each containing 7 sachets. They are BFAD approved in the Philippines and in Dubai.

picture of boxed instant coffee

This is Lean 'n Green brand slimming coffee. The product page shows these ingredients:

Green Coffee Bean, Garcinia Cambogia, Psyllium Husk, L Carnitine, Green Tea, Marine Collagen, Coffee, Non Fat Creamer, Stevia.

Each box sells online for 630 piso. All 200 is 126,000 piso or approximately 2,300 USD.

  • 26
    In that quantity? You'll probably need to pay import fees since you can hardly argue personal use. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Aug 28 '18 at 5:41
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    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas thats only 1400 cups of coffee. If we assume 12 cups in the common American coffee pot and that most coffee drinkers suck down a pot a day that is a little over a 4 month supply. By quantity that does not seem like a lot. By cost it is, that product size retails for 630 piso. 200 of them is 126,000 piso which is approximately 2300 USD. – Freiheit Aug 28 '18 at 12:56
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    Depending on the products, both value and quantity matter to Customs. Americans seem to drink 75 liters of beer per year. Try bringing 25 liters (4 months) of beer at once... – user67108 Aug 28 '18 at 13:47
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    @freiheit An entire pot?? Some people might drink that much but in no way is that "most coffee drinkers" – Azor Ahai Aug 28 '18 at 14:39
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    I'm going to remember this ingredient list next time someone is confused about how a beverage could fail to be vegetarian or vegan. Not sure how collagen is "slimming" – Todd Wilcox Aug 28 '18 at 16:34
25

The absolute maximum personal exemption for US customs is 1600 USD, per comments you're likely at the $800 level coming from the Philipines. The value of your coffee appears to exceed both levels. You'll need to declare it regardless of value. You will also probably have to pay duty on it as the value of 200 boxes appears to exceed even the maximum limit.

It is also a food product. Since it is commercially packaged it appears to be generally allowed per these rules.

Finally, the product ingredients do not appear to include anything that is banned or regulated in the US.

  • 3
    The page you link as "these rules" links to Bringing food into the U.S., and that page implies that there is a distinction between "commercial" and "non-commercial quantities". It's inconceivable that 200 boxes of anything would be treated as "non-commercial", so we're in a whole 'nother ball game. – David Richerby Aug 28 '18 at 14:38
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    It should be noted that US important duties are either zero or very low on most items. It's possible that OP would end up paying less than $200 for the imports. Paying duty on something is not the end of the world :) – JonathanReez Aug 28 '18 at 15:15
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    If you're coming from the Philippines, it looks like the exemption is $800. The coffee duties on the remaining ~$1500 are in Chapter 9 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. – Charles Aug 28 '18 at 18:14
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    $1,600 or $800 (or $200) is the exemption for US residents bringing items home. For nonresidents bringing gifts, it's $100, and duty would apply at whatever the appropriate rate is based on the product type and country of origin. However, in this case, you'd have a hard time convincing the officers that this isn't a commercial import, and no exemption would apply. You could also face problems because it's not packaged for sale in the US (does not comply with US labeling laws, dubious health claims, etc) – Zach Lipton Aug 29 '18 at 5:46
  • While the ingredients might be ok, the marketing as "slimming coffee" could well be disallowed in the US. – henning Aug 29 '18 at 12:13
18

You need to check the ingredient list very carefully. Some dieting products contain amphetamines or similar compounds that are restricted in the USA. Trying to import such products could get you in serious trouble. And even if they're legal, you will have to pay import duties on them, since 200 boxes is well above any 'personal use'.

  • 8
    It may be more than import duties. Bringing quantities of food beyond personal use into the UK would probably require an import license; the US may be similar. – David Richerby Aug 28 '18 at 10:20
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    I would be very careful on the ingredients. Maybe my Google Fu failed, but I tried to look for the ingredient list / nutrition facts card with no result. An English ingredients list will help customs officers a lot. I have no information whether Philippines laws require food products to print the ingredients list. Photo does not show (the "Ingredients" bullet list we can see is normally not the regulatory one you see on the back) – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Aug 28 '18 at 11:02
  • Dubai is very strict against drugs (I would say draconian) so it should not really contain anything like amphetamines. – Vladimir F Aug 28 '18 at 11:51
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    Mind how you go with this stuff. It's on the FDA's radar as unauthorized and potentially hazardous. sunstar.com.ph/article/414676. Since it appears to be illegal to sell it in the USA, I would assume customs officials would be aware of it, especially if you are importing a "commercial" quantity of it. – alephzero Aug 28 '18 at 18:45
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Regardless of whether you can, don't. There is no sense in carrying questionable things in large quantities on your person when you will be going through the scrutiny of immigration and customs. Send them as a parcel by post or other shipping service where they'll be subject to minimal or no scrutiny and will not risk affecting your treatment at the border.

  • 1
    This is a simpler solution to the problem. Ship it to your destination in the US, pay any duties owed, and avoid the wait in person. I am passingly aware of the "balikbayan" tradtion in the Philippines. A large shipment shouldn't phase a shipping agent sending from the Philippines to the USA because of that tradition. – Freiheit Aug 28 '18 at 19:53
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    This can be summarized in two words: Ship it. Maybe you should lead with that. – Harper Aug 28 '18 at 22:02
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    @Harper: That inverts the priority of the points in the answer. The most important point is not to put your physical safety, bodily integrity, and present and future access to entry at risk for the sake of bringing a gift, much less saving a few bucks on it. That shipping is a viable alternative is secondary; if it weren't, the answer would simply be "leave the gifts behind". US borders are scary places and nowhere to be trying unnecessary stuff. – R.. Aug 28 '18 at 22:30
  • Shipping large quantities of food into the US may require an import license (it certainly would to the UK). – David Richerby Aug 29 '18 at 15:30
  • @DavidRicherby: For the US, if it's a gift and under the value limit it probably doesn't. But the worst that's going to happen is it getting sent back or destroyed rather than getting hauled off in handcuffs at the airport. – R.. Aug 29 '18 at 15:57

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