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Doing Business with Cuba (4): Product Standards, Labelling and Documentation

Cuba has adopted specific technical requirements for certain products, while the National Standards Office (NSO) sets regulations for the labelling and packaging of consumer goods. In preparing for entry into the Cuban market, Hong Kong traders should also be aware of the country’s documentation requirements.

On Product Standards / Certification Requirements

Cuba has adopted specific technical requirements for certain products. The Oficina Nacional de Normalización (NC) is responsible for standards and technical regulation in Cuba. For example, certain electrical and mechanical products must be tested in Cuban laboratories to demonstrate their suitability for use in Cuban weather conditions.

Household and similar electrical appliances must comply with the standard NC COPANT IEC 60335-1. This sets forth general requirements for such electrical appliance with a rated voltage of not more than 250 volts for single-phase appliances and 480 volts for others.

Medical equipment and drugs must obtain a registration from the Ministry of Public Health’s State Centre for the Control of Drugs, Equipment and Devices (CECMED). Moreover, a range of products such as various types of lamps and luminaires, lamp ballasts, personal protective equipment, motorcycle helmets, medical electrical equipment, and construction and safety glass must also comply with specific standards. 

Aside from food items, the following products must obtain certification from the Cuban Ministry of Public Health’s Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety (INHA) before they can be imported into the country: food additives, food-contact materials, and equipment and utensils for food use; toys; cosmetics, personal care products, household cleaning products, and environmental products and technologies; and tobacco products. In addition to complying with all relevant requirements, these products must comply with good manufacturing and hygiene practices.  

Toys are subject to the requirements of NC ISO 8124-1 (safety aspects relating to mechanical and physical properties), NC ISO 8124-2 (flammability) and NC ISO 8124-3 (migration of certain elements). Among other things, the first of these outlines acceptable criteria for the structural characteristics of toys, such as their shape, size, contours (including sharp points and edges) and spacing (for example, hinge-line clearances) as well as the acceptable criteria for properties peculiar to certain toy categories (for example maximum kinetic energy values for non-resilient-tipped projectiles and minimum tip angles for certain ride-on toys). 

NC ISO 8124-2 specifies the categories of flammable materials that are prohibited in all toys as well as requirements concerning flammability of certain toys when subjected to a minor source of ignition. It also includes general requirements relating to all toys and specific requirements and test methods relating to toys presenting the greatest hazards. 

NC ISO 8124-3 specifies maximum acceptable levels and methods of sampling and extraction prior to analysis for the migration of antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and selenium from toy materials and parts. The maximum daily bioavailability levels in effect in Cuba are as follows: antimony (0.2 microgram or μg), arsenic (0.1 μg), barium (25.0 μg), cadmium (0.6 μg), chromium (0.3 μg), lead (0.7 μg), mercury (0.5 μg) and selenium (5.0 μg).

In general, most of the abovementioned Cuban standards are essentially transpositions of the respective international standards such as ISO standards. Compliance with the applicable international standards should therefore be sufficient in most cases even if the analogous Cuban standards may not be absolutely identical. To ensure smooth and effective customs clearance in Cuba, Hong Kong companies can consider engaging a testing laboratory or agency such as Bureau Veritas (which has a business presence in Cuba) to further control hiccups.

On Labelling

The National Standards Office (NSO) sets regulations for the labelling and packaging of consumer goods. Pre-packaged products other than food products or products subject to more specific standards should include at least the following information, in accordance with standard NC OIML R 79:1997: (i) the identity of the product; (ii) the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, distributor, importer or retailer; and (iii) the net quantity of the product. The identity of the product shall be expressed in line with at least one of the following designations: (i) the name specified in or required by any applicable national law or regulation; (ii) the common or usual name of the product; and/or (iii) the generic name or other appropriately descriptive term, such as a specification that includes a statement of function. 

All pre-packaged food products are required to be labelled in Spanish. Multi-lingual labels are acceptable as long as Spanish is one of the languages used on the label. The information required by Cuban law on all pre-packaged food product labels includes: (i) the name of the food product; (ii) the country of origin; (iii) the commercial brand name; (iv) the name and address of the manufacturer; (v) ingredients and additives; (vi) net content and drained weight; (vii) instructions for use; (viii) storage instructions; and (ix) the date of manufacture or lot number/code and expiration date.

On Documentation

The following documentation is normally required for goods imported into Cuba for consumption: (i) a customs declaration; (ii) a shipping document (for example, an original bill of lading, or export certification); (iii) an original copy of the commercial invoice; (iv) an original copy of the packing list; (v) a certificate of origin; (vi) sanitary/phytosanitary certificates, whenever applicable, and a fumigation certificate in the case of wood; and (vii) any other certificate or document that may be required by Cuban authorities. 

All documents must be translated into Spanish. Cuban Customs provides flexibility in certain instances, including by temporarily accepting pro-forma invoices. Importers may also submit customs declarations in advance of the arrival of the goods and make temporary or incomplete declarations when all the information necessary for clearance is not readily available.

Content provided by Picture: Louis Chan
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