PureCircle and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Resolve 2014 Stevia Sourcing

by PureCircle | August 14, 2020 | News SHARE: 

August 14, 2020, Chicago, IL – PureCircle and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently reached a settlement for $575,000, which marks the end of a claim regarding stevia products imported into the U.S. between 2014 and 2016.

On May 20, 2016 CBP issued a Withhold Release Order that prohibited the importation of stevia produced by certain Chinese manufacturers that allegedly employed forced labor into the United States. The original Withhold Release Order named PureCircle as one of the manufacturers of such stevia products. PureCircle submitted detailed information to CBP establishing the stevia it manufactured and imported was not produced with forced labor.

In January 2017, after reviewing extensive evidence provided by PureCircle, CBP removed PureCircle as a named entity from the Withhold Release Order, and PureCircle’s importation of stevia into the United States was allowed to resume without further interruption to date. While the Withhold Release Order remains in effect today, it does not apply to PureCircle or its products since this January 2017 determination.

In December 2019, CBP issued penalty notices pertaining to a fraction of PureCircle’s stevia product imports (only twenty out of hundreds from 2014 to early 2016, all of which occurred prior to the issuance of the original Withhold Release Order). PureCircle vigorously contested the claims raised in those notices and submitted additional information to CBP to again establish forced labor was not used to manufacture those products. No action was taken against any of the other shipments made during this period nor any subsequent shipments.

Rather than engage in extensive litigation requiring travel to China during the COVID-19 pandemic to challenge the penalty notices, PureCircle instead settled the matter with the U.S. government for less than 7% of the amount sought by CBP in penalties.

PureCircle did not admit any liability as part of the settlement, and PureCircle’s investigation has never found evidence of PureCircle having purchased stevia produced by forced labor at any point in time. Moreover, PureCircle’s internal Code of Conduct has at all times prohibited the manufacture or purchase by PureCircle of any stevia produced by forced labor, and PureCircle remains committed to ensuring strict adherence to such Code of Conduct.

“We reached a settlement with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), marking the end to a claim initiated by CBP in 2016,” stated PureCircle spokesperson Peter Lai. “From the onset, we strongly refuted the claim, fully cooperated with the investigation and provided substantial evidence to disprove CBP’s 2016 claim that forced labor was used to produce any stevia we sourced from China. After a rigorous investigation, we were cleared by CBP, and allowed to import product into the U.S. without any future restrictions. Given the length and cost of completing the multiyear process with CBP, it made the best financial sense for our business to reach a settlement for the 2016 matter without any admission of guilt. By agreeing to a settlement, PureCircle avoided paying any fines or penalties to CBP associated with our stevia imports into the US.”

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