Alcan Food Packaging v. United States, No. 14-1003 (Fed. Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Alcan imported Flexalcon, an aluminum-plastic laminate foil for food packaging with stringent shelf-life requirements, such as for the military’s Meals Ready to Eat. Flexalcon is a four-layer material for the base of a package and a three-layer material for the lid. Each configuration has a thin layer of aluminum foil between layers of plastic. Aluminum prevents penetration of light, water vapor, oxygen, and other contaminants that would degrade food contents. The plastic gives the packaging tensile strength and increases heat resistance to withstand sterilization and sealing; it prevents cracking and piercing. Alcan listed the material as classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) subheading 7607.20.50, which carries no duty rate and covers “[a]luminum foil (whether or not printed, or backed with paper, paperboard, plastics or similar backing materials) of a thickness (excluding any backing) not exceeding 0.2 mm: Backed: Other.” Customs reclassified the Flexalcon under subheading 3921.90.40, with a 4.2% duty rate, covering “[o]ther plates, sheets, film, foil and strip, of plastics: Other: Flexible.” Alcan unsuccessfully protested under 19 U.S.C. 1514–1515. The Court of International Trade upheld the classification. The Federal Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the competing aluminum-foil heading defers to the applicable plastics heading.