Ruling of the Week: Rice Krispies Treats

I had a long run of covering at least one CBP ruling every week. I enjoyed doing that as it allowed me to find an odd ruling and use it as a tool to illustrate some point. That fell by the wayside, mainly because of the time commitment it takes to do actual work and also write other content for the blog. On the other hand, I kind of miss it. Others have tried to fill that space. I am looking at you, Crowell & Moring. 

Today, I am inspired to jump back in. That inspiration came in the form of the printed New York Times. In today's Science Times, there was an interesting and entertaining discussion of whether a reasonably functional traffic barrier could be made of Rice Krispies Treats. In the course of that discussion, the author quotes Customs & Border Protection for what seems to be an "official" description of a Rice Krispies Treat. According to the Article: "[T]he Tariff Classification and Marking Branch, a part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, describes them as 'moist, gooey, sticky, easily malleable, and very sweet like a marshmallow . . . .'"

That surprise appearance by CBP at my breakfast table caused me to look up the source of the quote. It comes from HQ H200575 (Apr. 16, 2012). In the ruling, CBP grappled with three questions. First, what is the classification of a brick made of cereal and marshmallow? Second, is said brick entitled to NAFTA treatment when made in and imported from Mexico? Third, how should said brick be labeled to show its country of origin?

On the classification, the competing headings were 1704 covering sugar confectionery and 1904 covering prepared foods obtained by swelling or roasting cereal products not elsewhere specified or included.

After apparently eating one (or more) Rice Krispies Treat, CBP determined that it is sweet. It also determined that more than 50% of each bar is sugar. Customs noted that the bars are sold ready to eat and not as ingredients on other products. More on that later. Finally, the bars are sold with snack bars and sometimes alongside candy, Consequently, CBP held that the treats are classified as confections in Heading 1704. 

On the NAFTA front, the the non-originating materials used in the production (is it baking?) of these treats underwent the required change in tariff classification. So, the treats are NAFTA originating. Similarly, each foreign ingredient underwent the change in tariff classification required by the NAFTA marking rules. Consequently, they could be marked as products of Mexico.

And there you have a new Ruling of the Week (although it is an old ruling).

I do want to have a discussion about the notion that Rice Krispies Treats are not ingredients in other prepared foods. I watch a lot of competitive baking. Everything from the always informative The Great British Baking Show to the almost painful Nailed It. I watch enough of this genre of television to know that Duff was robbed and that Adriano Zumbo is a magician. I also know that "crisped rice treats" are the go-to material to fill gaps and create structures in what for some reason people continue to call "cake." Crisped rice, as they are generically called when allowed on these programs, is the drywall of the baking industry. So, while this has not bearing whatsoever on the CBP ruling, it think it is fair to say that bricks of puffed rice and marshmallow are actually building materials of Heading 6808. In this case, the rice is the vegetable fiber and the marshmallow is the binder.

Kellogg's call me if you want to try that, but not on a contingent fee basis.


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