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104th Congress Rept. 104-467
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
2d Session Part 2
FEDERAL TEA TASTERS REPEAL ACT OF 1996
March 8, 1996.--Ordered to be printed
Mr. Bliley, from the Committee on Commerce, submitted the following
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 2969]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on Commerce, to whom was referred the bill
(H.R. 2969) to eliminate the Board of Tea Experts by repealing
the Tea Importation Act of 1897, having considered the same,
report favorably thereon without amendment and recommend that
the bill do pass.
Purpose and Summary.............................................. 1
Background and Need for Legislation.............................. 2
Committee Consideration.......................................... 3
Rollcall Votes................................................... 3
Committee Oversight Findings..................................... 4
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight..................... 4
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures........................ 4
Committee Cost Estimate.......................................... 4
Congressional Budget Office Estimate............................. 4
Inflationary Impact Statement.................................... 5
Advisory Committee Statement..................................... 5
Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation................... 5
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported............ 6
Purpose and Summary
This measure repeals the Tea Importation Act of 1897,\1\
which: (1) prohibits the importation of tea, except as provided
under the Act; (2) established the Board of Tea Experts; (3)
authorizes a program to administer tea importation, which
currently operates through the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA); and (4) authorizes the Customs Service to collect a fee
of 10 cents per hundredweight to pay for the costs of tea
\1\ 21 U.S.C. Section 41 et seq. (1996).
Tea is also regulated under the Federal Food, Drug, and
Cosmetic Act (FFDCA),\2\ which prohibits the importation of
adulterated or misbranded foods such as instant tea, tea,
coffee, and fish.\3\ Because the safety of tea for human
consumption is preserved under the FFDCA, the quality standards
for tea imposed by the Tea Importation Act of 1897 and enforced
by the FDA are no longer necessary. Repeal of the Tea
Importation Act of 1897 would end the dual regulation of tea
that occurs by virtue of the overlap between these two Acts.
Upon repeal, imported tea would continue to be regulated by the
FDA in accordance with the FFDCA in the same manner as instant
tea, coffee, and other imported foods.
\2\ 21 U.S.C. Section 301 et seq. (1996). Also, the United States
Department of Agriculture operates programs in addition to the FFDCA
that regulate the safety of meat and meat products, poultry, and eggs.
\3\ ``The term `food' means (1) articles used for food or drink for
man or other animals, (2) chewing gum, and (3) articles used for
components of any such article.'' 21 U.S.C. Section 321(f) (1996).
Background and Need for Legislation
The Tea Importation Act of 1897 establishes a program,
currently administered by the FDA, that governs the importation
of tea. Under the program, the FDA must: (1) inspect every lot
of tea offered for import into the United States to determine
whether it meets applicable quality standards; and (2) certify
the tea for importation, if it meets the applicable quality
standards. For example, a company that imports tea might
receive a shipment, also known as a ``lot,'' from an exporting
country. Before the company can accept the tea, it must send a
sample of the shipment to an FDA inspector. The inspector would
test the tea to determine if it meets the applicable quality
standard. If it does, then the FDA certifies that shipment of
tea for import; if it does not, the country exporting the tea
may be required to take it back, or destroy it. Under the Tea
Importation Act of 1897, a United States company seeking to
import tea cannot accept a shipment without this certification
by the FDA.
The applicable quality standards for imported tea are set
by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who usually
defers to the standard recommended by the Board of Tea Experts.
The Board of Tea Experts, established under the Tea Importation
Act of 1897, is an advisory board to the FDA chartered under
the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).\4\ The Board meets
once a year to determine quality standards for imported tea,
which it provides to the Secretary of Health and Human
Services. FDA's appropriation for Fiscal Year 1996 prohibits
allocation of any Federal funds to the Board of Tea Experts.\5\
However, the FDA still must comply with the requirements of the
Tea Importation Act of 1897, i.e., set standards for the
purity, quality, and fitness of imported tea. Therefore, the
FDA is soliciting comments to determine standards by which to
measure the quality of imported teas in order to comply with
the Tea Importation Act of 1897.
\4\ 5 U.S.C. app. Section 1 et seq. (1996).
\5\ Appropriations for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and
Drug Administration, and Related Agency programs for the Fiscal Year
ending September 30, 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-37, sec. 727, 109 Stat. 328
The Tea Importation Act of 1897 also authorizes the Customs
Service to collect a fee of 10 cents for every hundred pounds
of tea imported. Currently, the Customs Service continues to
collect 3.5 cents, and has not implemented the increase as
provided under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993.
The purpose of the fee, which is paid directly into the U.S.
Treasury, is to cover the implementation costs of the Tea
Importation Act of 1897.
The program established under the Tea Importation Act of
1897 is run separately from, and in addition to, the FDA's
standard programs for inspection of imported foods as required
by the FFDCA. Under the FFDCA, the FDA is responsible for the
safety of imported foods such as tea, instant tea, coffee, and
fish. The FFDCA prohibits importation of adulterated or
misbranded foods. Under that Act, foods are considered
``adulterated'' if, among other things, they: (1) contain
poisonous substances or unsafe pesticides; (2) were packaged
under unsanitary conditions; or (3) contain any ``filthy,
putrid, or decomposed substances.'' \6\ Because the safety of
imported foods such as tea is preserved under the FFDCA,
regulation of tea under the Tea Importation Act of 1897 is
redundant to the extent it preserves the safety of tea for
\6\ 21 U.S.C. Section 342 (1996).
The Tea Importation Act of 1897 requires the FDA to enforce
Federal quality standards for tea, in addition to its
responsibilities under the FFDCA for the safety of imported
foods. Tea is the only beverage for which a program requiring
inspection of every shipment offered for import exists. In
fact, even the safety of both instant tea and coffee are
regulated only under the FFDCA.\7\ Repeal of the 1897 Act will
promote a more efficient FDA, while the safety of imported tea
will continue to be provided for in the same fashion as the
safety of other imported foods such as instant tea and coffee.
\7\ ``Since the law passed in 1897 said nothing about such
fractions of tea as solubles, the relatively small amounts of instant
tea and instant tea mixes imported in these forms are not subject to
the requirements of the Tea Act, but they, like other foods, are
subject to the requirements of the FDC [Federal Food, Drug, and
Cosmetic Act] and Fair Packaging and Labeling Acts.'' Tea solubles are
the parts of tea used for instant tea and instant tea mixes. Robert H.
Dick and Harold Hopkins, ``Putting Tea to the Taste,'' FDA Consumer at
18, 22 (September 1974).
The Committee on Commerce has not held hearings on this
On March 6, 1996, the Committee on Commerce met in open
markup session and ordered H.R. 2929 reported to the House,
without amendment, by a voice vote, a quorum being present.
Clause 2(l)(2)(B) of rule XI of the Rules of the House
requires the Committee to list the recorded votes on the motion
to report legislation and amendments thereto. There were no
recorded votes taken in connection with ordering H.R. 2969
reported. The voice votes taken in Committee are as follows:
Bill: H.R. 2969, Federal Tea Tasters Repeal Act of 1996.
Motion: Motion by Mr. Bilirakis to discharge the
Subcommittee on Health and Environment from further
consideration of H.R. 2969, and provide for its immediate
consideration by the Full Committee.
Disposition: Agreed to, by a voice vote.
Motion: Motion by Mr. Bliley to order H.R. 2969 reported to
Disposition: Agreed to, by a voice vote.
Committee Oversight Findings
Pursuant to clause 2(l)(3)(A) of rule XI of the Rules of
the House of Representatives, the Committee has not held
oversight or legislative hearings on this legislation.
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight
Pursuant to clause 2(l)(3)(D) of rule XI of the Rules of
the House of Representatives, no oversight findings have been
submitted to the Committee by the Committee on Government
Reform and Oversight.
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures
In compliance with clause 2(l)(3)(B) of rule XI of the
Rules of the House of Representatives, the Committee states
that H.R. 2969 would result in no new or increased budget
authority or tax expenditures or revenues.
Committee Cost Estimate
The Committee adopts as its own the cost estimate prepared
by the Director of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
Congressional Budget Office Estimate
Pursuant to clause 2(l)(3)(C) of rule XI of the Rules of
the House of Representatives, the following is the cost
estimate provided by the Congressional Budget Office pursuant
to section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974:
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, March 6, 1996.
Hon. Thomas J. Bliley, Jr.,
Chairman, Committee on Commerce,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
reviewed H.R. 2969, the Federal Tea Tasters Repeal Act of 1996,
as ordered reported by the Commerce Committee on March 6, 1996.
CBO estimates that the bill would reduce governmental receipts
by less than $500,000 in each of the fiscal years 1996 through
2000. Because enacting H.R. 2969 would affect receipts, pay-as-
you-go procedures would apply to the bill. H.R. 2969 contains
no intergovernmental or private sector mandates as defined in
Public Law 104-4 and would impose no direct costs on state,
local, or tribal governments.
The Tea Importation Act of 1897 requires tea to be examined
upon import to the United States, and establishes an
examination fee to be paid by the importer. H.R. 2969 repeals
the Tea Importation Act of 1897, eliminating the examination
requirement and the corresponding fee. Under Public Law 103-66,
signed August 10, 1993, the amount of the fee for the
examination of tea imports was raised from 3.5 cents per
hundred weight to 10 cents per hundred weight of tea imported.
However, due to an oversight in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule,
U.S. Customs has continued to charge a rate of 3.5 cents per
hundred weight of the tea, collecting about $70,000 in each of
the fiscal years 1994 and 1995. Based on information from
Customs, CBO assumes that this discrepancy will be corrected
and that Customs will begin collecting the fee at the statutory
rate of 10 cents per hundred weight. CBO estimates that
collections of the fee at the 10 cent rate would be
approximately $200,000 annually. Enacting H.R. 2969 would
therefore result in a negligible loss of revenue from fee
If you wish further details, please feel free to contact me
or your staff may wish to contact Stephanie Weiner.
June E. O'Neill, Director.
Inflationary Impact Statement
Pursuant to clause 2(l)(4) of rule XI of the Rules of the
House of Representatives, the Committee finds that H.R. 2969
would have no inflationary impact.
Advisory Committee Statement
No advisory committees within the meaning of section 5(b)
of the Federal Advisory Committee Act were created by this
Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation
section 1. short title
This section provides that the Act may be cited as the
``Federal Tea Tasters Repeal Act of 1996.''
section 2. repeal of tea importation act of 1897
This section repeals the Tea Importation Act (21 U.S.C.
Section 41 et seq.), and leaves tea to be regulated by the Food
and Drug Administration according to the Federal Food, Drug,
and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. Section 301 et seq.).
section 3. effective date
This section provides that the Act shall take effect on the
date of its enactment.
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported
In compliance with clause 3 of rule XIII of the Rules of the
House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by the
bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law proposed
to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, existing law in
which no change is proposed is shown in roman):
TEA IMPORTATION ACT
[Sec. 1. It shall be unlawful for any person or persons or
corporation to import or bring into the United States any
merchandise as tea which is inferior in purity, quality, and
fitness for consumption to the standards provided in section
three of this Act, and the importation of all such merchandise
is prohibited, except as provided in the Harmonized Tariff
Schedule of the United States.
[Sec. 2. On or before February 15 of each year, the Secretary
of Health, Education, and Welfare shall appoint a board, to
consist of seven members, each of whom shall be an expert in
teas, and who shall prepare and submit to him standard samples
of tea. The persons so appointed shall be at all times subject
to removal by the said Secretary and shall serve for the term
of one year. Vacancies in the said board occurring by removal,
death, resignation, or any other cause shall be forthwith
filled by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare by
appointment, such appointee to hold for the unexpired term.
Said board shall appoint a presiding officer, who shall be the
medium of all communications to or from such board. Each member
of said board shall receive as compensation the sum of $50 per
annum, which, together with all necessary expenses while
engaged upon the duty herein provided, shall be paid by the
[Sec. 3. The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare,
upon the recommendation of the board, shall fix and establish
uniform standards of purity, quality, and fitness for
consumption of all kinds of teas imported into the United
States, and shall procure and deposit in the customhouses of
the ports of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and such other
ports as he may determine, duplicate samples of such standards.
Said Administrator shall procure a sufficient number of other
duplicate samples of such standards to supply the importers and
dealers in tea at all ports desiring the same at cost. All
teas, or merchandise described as tea, of inferior purity,
quality, and fitness for consumption to such standards shall be
deemed within the prohibition of the first section hereof.
[Sec. 4. On making entry at the customhouse of all teas, or
merchandise described as tea, imported into the United States,
the importer or consignee shall give a bond to the collector of
the port that such merchandise shall not be removed from the
warehouse until released by the collector, after it shall have
been duly examined with reference to its purity, quality, and
fitness for consumption. For the purpose of such examination
samples of each line in every invoice of tea shall be submitted
by the importer or consignee to the examiner, together with the
sworn statement of such importer or consignee that such samples
represent the true quality of each and every part of the
invoice and accord with the specifications therein contained;
or in the discretion of the Secretary of Health, Education, and
Welfare, such samples shall be obtained by the examiner and
compared by him with the standards established by this Act. In
cases where said tea, or merchandise described as tea, is
entered at ports where there is no qualified examiner as
provided in section seven, the consignee or importer shall in
the manner aforesaid furnish under oath a sample of each line
of tea to the collector or other revenue officer to whom is
committed the collection of duties, and said officer shall also
draw or cause to be drawn samples of each line in every invoice
and shall forward the same to a duly qualified examiner as
provided in said section. The bond required by this section
shall also be conditioned for the payment of all customhouse
charges which may attach to such merchandise prior to its being
released or destroyed (as the case may be) under the provisions
of this Act.
[Sec. 5. If, after an examination as provided in section
four, the tea is found by the examiner to be equal in purity,
quality, and fitness for consumption to the standards provided,
and no reexamination shall be demanded by the collector as
provided in section six, a permit shall at once be granted to
importer or consignee declaring the tea free from the control
of the customs authorities; but if on examination such tea, or
merchandise described as tea, is found, in the opinion of the
examiner, to be inferior in purity, quality, and fitness for
consumption to the said standards the importer or consignee
shall be immediately notified, and the tea, or merchandise
described as tea, shall not be released by the customhouse,
unless on a reexamination called for by the importer or
consignee the finding of the examiner shall be found to be
erroneous. Should a portion of the invoice be passed by the
examiner, a permit shall be granted for that portion and the
remainder held for further examination, as provided in said
[Sec. 6. In case the collector, importer, or consignee shall
protest against the finding of the examiner, the matter in
dispute shall be referred for decision to the United States
Board of Tea Appeals, to consist of three employees of the
Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to be designated
by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. If such
board shall, after due examination, find the tea in question to
be equal in purity, quality, and fitness for consumption to the
proper standards, a permit shall be issued by the collector for
its release and delivery to the importer; but if upon such
final reexamination by such board the tea shall be found to be
inferior in purity, quality, and fitness for consumption to the
said standards, the importer or consignee shall give a bond,
with security satisfactory to the collector, to export said
tea, or merchandise described as tea, out of the limits of the
United States within a period of six months after such final
reexamination; and if the same shall not have been exported
within the time specified, the collector, at the expiration of
that time, shall cause the same to be destroyed.
[Sec. 7. The examination provided for shall be made by a duly
qualified examiner at a port where standard samples are
established, and where the merchandise is entered at ports
where there is no qualified examiner, the examination shall be
made at that one of said ports which is nearest the port of
entry, and that for this purpose samples of the merchandise,
obtained in the manner prescribed by section four of this Act,
shall be forwarded to the proper port by the collector or chief
officer at the port of entry. In all cases of examination or
reexamination of teas, or merchandise described as tea, by
examiners or the United States Board of Tea Appeals under the
provisions of this chapter, the purity, quality, and fitness
for consumption of the same shall be tested according to the
usage and customs of the tea trade, including the testing of an
infusion of the same in boiling water, and, if necessary,
[Sec. 8. In cases of reexamination of teas, or merchandise
described as teas, by the United States Board of Tea Appeals in
pursuance of the provisions hereof, samples of the tea, or
merchandise described as tea, in dispute, for transmission to
such board for its decision, shall be put up and sealed by the
examiner in the presence of the importer or consignee if he so
desires, and transmitted to such board, together with a copy of
the finding of the examiner, setting forth the cause of
condemnation and the claim or ground of the protest of the
importer relating to the same, such samples, and the papers
therewith, to be distinguished by such mark that the same may
be identified. The decision of such board shall be in writing,
signed by them, and transmitted, together with the record and
samples, within three days after the rendition thereof, to the
collector, who shall forthwith furnish the examiner and the
importer or consignee with a copy of said decision or finding.
The United States Board of Tea Appeals shall be authorized to
obtain the advice, when necessary, of persons skilled in the
examination of teas, who shall each receive for his services in
any particular case a compensation not exceeding $5.
[Sec. 9. No imported teas which have been rejected by a
customs examiner or by the United States Board of Tea Appeals,
and exported under the provisions of this Act, shall be
reimported into the United States under the penalty of
forfeiture for a violation of this prohibition.
[Sec. 10. The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
shall have the power to enforce the provisions of this Act by
[Sec. 11. That teas actually on shipboard for shipment to the
United States at the time of the passage of this Act shall not
be subject to the prohibition hereof, but the provisions of the
Act entitled ``An Act to prevent the importation of adulterated
and spurious teas,'' approved March second, eighteen hundred
and eighty-three, shall be applicable thereto.
[Sec. 12. That the Act entitled ``An Act to prevent the
importation of adulterated and spurious teas,'' approved March
second, eighteen hundred and eighty-three, is hereby repealed,
such repeal to take effect on the date on which this Act goes
[Sec. 13. No tea or merchandise described as tea shall be
examined for importation into the United States, or released by
the Customs Service, under the Tea Importation Act unless the
importer or consignee of such tea or merchandise has paid,
before the examination, a fee in an amount equal to--
[(1) 10 cents for each hundred weight or fraction
thereof of the tea or merchandise; or
[(2) the approximate cost of the examinations;
whichever amount is less. Such fee shall be deposited into the
Treasury of the United States as miscellaneous receipts.]