As a normal consequence of handling bags of cocoa beans and coffee beans during shipment and unloading, bags are broken, torn, or split with the result that the contents are spilled. Traditionally, these spilled beans are gathered up and rebagged as they have commercial value. These beans are commonly characterized as sweeps and may also be designated as warehouse, vessel, or wharf sweeps.
Prior to 1979, FDA regulated such products using procedures which reflected the nature of the local port facilities and the activities of the local customs officials and importers. Most often, spilled beans from the vessel and the unloading process were considered to be in import status and allowed to be exported.
In 1978, a comparatively large lot of rebagged cocoa bean sweeps was encountered in a remote area of the Philadelphia docks by the FDA Philadelphia district. These beans were not appropriately stored. They had been allowed to become further contaminated while on the docks and were to all appearances and inquiry abandoned goods. The lot was seized and subsequently a claimant appeared before the court. In an ensuing court challenge, the court ruled for the government in condemning the beans, finding that the claimant must satisfy the conditions set forth in Section 304(d)(1) and (2) of the Act in order to export them.
Subsequent to the court ruling, the FDA announced a new policy in regard to coffee and cocoa bean sweeps. The policy stated that cocoa or coffee bean sweeps that cannot be identified as a part of a particular entry are considered to be in domestic status and subject to seizure action. The policy further stated that they cannot be reconditioned as sweeps without denaturing to prevent their use for human consumption.
The above policy resulted in the destruction of coffee and cocoa bean sweeps, most of which would have previously been permitted to be exported. *As a result of our experience with that policy, FDA reassessed and revised the policy.*
Cocoa or coffee bean sweeps that have been accumulated during unloading, transporting, and/or storage while at a port facility are considered by FDA to be adulterated. However, because of the traditional manner in which these sweeps have been handled, the fact the beans will undergo further processing, and the nature of the adulteration, FDA in its discretion, will permit the sweeps to be exported as provided for by Section 801 of the Act, provided they meet all of the following criteria:
- All such sweeps shall be placed in bags suitable for food storage and clearly marked with the identity of the importing vessel and with tags indicating that they are for export only.
- The sweeps shall be stored in a sanitary food storage warehouse.
- The sweeps shall only contain extraneous matter commonly associated with sweeps; i.e., wood, string, stones, sticks, straw, etc.
- The appropriate FDA office shall be notified prior to exportation.
Sweeps that contain contaminants such as chemicals, mold, or animal and insect filth or otherwise do not conform to the above criteria will be considered for seizure action.
*Material between asterisks is new or revised.*