As released by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) on January 11, 20241, the 2024 Imported Food Customs Inspection Plan was established to ensure the safety and quality of food at the customs clearance stage, thus to help enhance food safety management and improve the customs inspection system.
1. Key Points of South Korea Imported Food Customs Inspection Plan 2024
(1) Expansion of Products Subject to Planned Inspection
To meet the increasing demand for certain products, MFDS expanded the scope of food products subject to Planned Inspection by including seasonally highly consumed ingredients such as red snapper and freshwater fish, as well as snacks with toys and coffee utensils.
The details about the 2024 Planned Inspection during the customs stage will be:
Occasions when food needs increase: ① Lunar New Year, ② Family month (May), ③ Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), ④ Kimjang Season (Kimchi-making season)
Seasonally highly consumed food materials: ① Food materials for traditional Korean holidays, ② Red snapper and freshwater fish, ③ Tilapia.
Products interested by consumers: ① Utensils related to coffee or tea
Products with hazard risks: ① Processed agricultural products, ② Processed fishery products, ③ Agricultural products with high non-compliance rate, ④ Meat products, ⑤ Farmed fish and seafood
Products for Vulnerable groups: ① Food products with toys inside to spark children's curiosity, ② Utensils for Infants
(2) Expansion of Veterinary Drug Inspection Items to Cover Livestock and Fishery Products
South Korea’s Positive List System (PLS) is a regulatory system to ensure the safety of livestock and fishery products by controlling the presence of residues from veterinary drugs in food. It applies a uniform standard of below 0.01 mg/kg of the residue of animal veterinary drugs whose residue tolerance standards are not specified under the Food Code.
Starting in 2024, the PLS management of veterinary drugs in livestock and fishery products is implemented, prioritizing the simultaneous analysis of animal veterinary drugs for selected livestock such as cattle, pigs, poultry, eggs, and fish. The number of veterinary drug items that can be analyzed simultaneously will be expanded from approximately 70 to around 150, which strengthens the safety management of livestock and fishery products. Furthermore, according to the authority, emphasis will be placed on inspecting animal veterinary drugs with a high concern for non-compliance in fishery products.
(3) Intensification of On-Site Inspection
The on-site inspections will be intensified for food utensils and equipment, food products such as sesame, kelp, peanuts, rice, and mung beans, which are prone to false reporting, as stakeholders may simultaneously declare multiple products under a single import declaration to evade detailed inspections and exploit tariffs. Furthermore, imported fishery products that may deceive consumers by illegal overglazing (excessive glaze or water injection) or mislabeling based on price differences between fish species (low-value species labeled as high-value species) will be subject to on-site inspections. multiple products under a single import declaration
２. Improvement of Imported Food Customs Inspection System
MFDS improves the imported food customs inspection system to conduct customs inspections and support fast customs clearance efficiently.
(1) Shortening the Period for Inspection of Livestock Products
For livestock products, the inspection period required during customs inspections is 18 days, longer than other foods' ten days. Considering the fairness and practical conditions, such as inspection personnel and equipment, MFDS intends to shorten the processing period for import declarations of livestock products from 18 to 14 days. This improvement is expected to alleviate the burden on businesses by reducing costs and time associated with import inspections.
(2) Expansion of Products Subject to Planned Import Fast Customs Clearance
The planned import fast customs clearance system, implemented in 2020, allows for fast customs clearance immediately upon import declaration. The applicable product scope is as follows:
Food products imported for an average of five or more times in the past three years;
Products with no history of non-compliance;
Food products imported by registered good importers (우수수입업소);
Raw materials and flavorings for refining and manufacturing purposes.
To ensure a stable supply of food ingredients, the scope of the planned import fast customs clearance system will be expanded to include "ingredients used for manufacturing foods for exports," and "raw materials recognized as safe by MFDS”, and "products imported after undergoing testing and inspection by an MFDS-approved testing institution". A post-management system will also be established to monitor cases where approval for planned import fast customs clearanceis obtained through false or fraudulent means.
The above-mentioned "products recognized as safe by MFDS" refers to imported food products from countries continuously selling foods to South Korea in the past five years, with no non-compliance history based on at least five annual thorough inspections and with no non-compliance history found in random inspections, as well as no hazard information.