Washington - A U.S. District Court decision has validated U.S. Customs and Border Protection Laboratories and Scientific Services' use of trace metal profiles in analyzing agricultural product for country of origin.
The decision was made after defense attorneys in a honey transshipment case requested what is known as a Franks Hearing to challenge the validity of a search warrant that was based on the laboratory analysis. The judge in the Western District of Washington at Seattle ruled that the findings of the laboratory were sufficient probable cause to grant a valid search warrant, and the evidence collected was deemed admissible in court.
"The Franks Hearing is an important step in validating trace metal analysis to determine country of origin," said Ira Reese, executive director of CBP's Laboratory and Scientific Services. "This sets important precedent in future anti-dumping cases."
CBP tests for country of origin based on the trace metal content of agricultural products as determined by a process known as Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry. Samples received are tested to determine trace metal content and compared to a database for specific country and agricultural items of interest to determine if the country of origin is the invoiced country, and if not, whether it is a country subject to anti-dumping duties.
The Franks Hearing was based on a case that began when CBP's Savannah Laboratory received a number of samples of honey imported into Seattle claiming to be from either Thailand or the Philippines. Led by Savannah Laboratory Director Carson Watts, samples were tested and indicated that the honey matched the trace metal profile for honey from China.
Based in large part on the laboratory reports, agents secured a warrant to search the importer's premises. A Franks Hearing is used to confirm or refute the truthfulness of a search warrant and the information used to acquire such a warrant.