Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ruling of the Week 2015.21: Coconut Wraps

Is there still a trend surrounding eating raw to allegedly preserve nutrients and avoid bad karma? I never understood it, nor do I believe there is any science behind it. I remember seeing a woman on a news show talking about how the enzymes in fruit dissolve unhealthy body fat, but she could not identify the enzymes or explain the mechanism. If you tell me you are on a juice cleanse, I will do my best not to scoff.

If, however, you are looking for a raw alternative to an otherwise delicious tortilla, you might try a "Pure Wrap," which is composed mainly of coconut meat that has been pulverized into a slurry and dehydrated into flat wraps. According to the folks at the company:

Pure Wraps believes that food is medicine and illness begins with nutritional deficiencies. In order to support wellness and fight disease we need clean food from a clean environment. Therefore, we are committed to unlocking the value of food by combining the ancient wisdom about nourishment with nutrient-rich ingredients and safe preparation techniques.

So much for the germ theory. Ancient wisdom also said that we get sick when our vital humors are out of whack. I'm not interesting in getting my bile and phlegm adjusted next time I get the flu.

But, what I am interested in the tariff classification of these sheets of coconut. There are two flavors at issue: plain and curry.

The first issue is whether the additional of salt at about 33 mg per gram of product is sufficient to kick it out of HTSUS Heading 0801, which is the eo nomine heading for coconuts. Note 3 to Chapter 8 permits the additional of materials for preservation or stabilization, provided the product retains its character as dried coconut. 

According to Customs' laboratory, the amount of salt added to the coconut was above the amount necessary for preservation and stabilization. Consequently, it is a flavoring. That is sufficient to push the product into Heading 2008 ("fruits, nuts, and other edible parts of plants, otherwise prepared or preserved . . . .).

The plain wraps are classifiable in 2008.19.15 as coconuts not elsewhere specified or included.

That leaves the curry wraps. The added spices include products of seeds or nuts. If they matter, then the product can't be coconuts. It would be "Other, including mixtures" in HTSUS item 2008.19.85. This is the interesting part.

It occasionally happens that a product is mixed or adulterated with other material in a way that might change its tariff classification. The question is whether there is some lower limit at which the additional material does not impact classification. Yes, there is. It is the de minimis level. 

Here, Customs found that the curry spices were merely incidental or immaterial to the overall product. While they do impart flavor, the nature and use of the product remains the same. Also, the value is not changed. As such, Customs treated the additional materials as de minimis and applied the same classification.

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