U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has collected $575,000 in penalties following the closure of a civil enforcement action against stevia importer PureCircle U.S.A., Inc. This action is the first penalty that CBP has issued for imports made with forced labor since the passage of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act in 2015.
The action against Pure Circle stems from an investigation into stevia produced in China by Inner Mongolia Hengzheng Group Baoanzhao Agricultural and Trade LLC (“Baoanzhao”) that CBP initiated after receiving an allegation from a non-governmental organization. That investigation led CBP to issue a withhold release order (WRO) in May 2016.
During the subsequent investigation into PureCircle’s importations of stevia from Baoanzhao, CBP obtained evidence establishing that PureCircle had imported at least 20 shipments of stevia powder and derivatives produced from stevia leaves that were processed in China with prison labor, which is in violation of U.S. law.