Frequently Asked Questions

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What are the International Phytosanitary Standards?

All wood packaging materials (WPM) used in international trade must be fumigated or heat treated in accordance with the “International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures” (ISPM) No. 15 titled “Regulation of Wood Packaging Material in International Trade”

Why are ISPM-15 Standards Needed?

The standards are designed to stop the spread of exotic pests to other countries.  The forest of the United States as well as those in other countries, have been devastated by insects and diseases that feed on trees.

In the past, valuable tree species like the American Chestnut and American Elm were eliminated from U.S. forests due to the Chestnut Blight and Dutch Elm Disease inadvertently imported from Asia and Europe, respectively.

Recently, forest pests like the Gypsy Moth, Asian Longhorned Beetle and Emerald Ash Borer have been brought to the U.S., with the last two on untreated wood packaging material.

What Countries Participate in ISPM-15?

About 170 countries signed a treaty on March 15, 2002 known as the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) . Nearly every country is now in compliance with the ISPM-15 standards

What Wood Packaging Materials are Covered by ISPM-15?

Wood packaging material (WPM) can be made from solid wood packaging material (SWPM) and non-manufactured wood packaging (NMWP) material.  SWPM includes plywood, particle board, oriented strand board, veneer and other wood-based products created “using glue, heat, pressure or a combination thereof”. NMWP is sawn lumber.

Only sawn lumber used to build wood packaging materials to ship products overseas must comply with the ISPM-15 requirements.  This includes pallets, crating, packing blocks, collars, spool ends, skids, runners, etc.

What are the Rules for Heat Treating WPM?

Wood packaging materials must be relatively bark-free and must be heat treated to 140 degrees F at core temperature for 30 consecutive minutes.  The heat treated WPM must then be stamped or marked by the facility in accordance with the ISPM-15 standards enforced by an accredited agency.

Do Wood Packaging Materials Need to be “Bark-Free”?

No, but nearly so.  Only debarked lumber should be used for WPM.  According to ISPM-15, bark that is less than 3cm wide (regardless of length) or with a surface area less than 50 square cm is allowed, but individual country requirements may be stricter.

What are the HT Requirements in Other Countries?

Most countries follow the ISPM-15 standards as written, but some countries have made certain modifications.  For more information, please visit the International Plant Protection Convention or the import/export page at USDA-APHIS to determine the import requirements unique to each country.

Compliance and Enforcement

Who Enforces the ISPM-15 Standards?

The USDA Animal Plant Health Inspections Services (APHIS) has authorized the American Lumber Standards Committee (ALSC) to enforce ISPM-15.  ALSC has accredited 20 organizations (including MFPA) as certifying agencies for the heat treatment of WPM.  Each facility that wants to heat treat WPM for export must have a contractual relationship with one of the 20 certifying agencies.

How Much does ISPM-15 Compliance Cost?

Each certifying agency develops its own pricing structure that is fairly comparable depending on the travel distance from the inspector to the facility.  The major cost of ISPM-15 compliance to the facility is the monthly inspection fee.  For more information and a quote for our inspection services call the Missouri Forest Products Association at (573) 634-3252.

What Records do I Need to Keep?

Each HT facility must have quality control procedures spelled out in their Process Manual.  In addition, the following records must be maintained:

1. Amount of heat treated lumber purchased from a certified agency;

2. Amount of heat treated lumber used in the manufacture of pallets, crates, dunnage and other WPM; and

3. Each load of raw lumber heat treated in your kiln with the core temperature (140 degrees F) reached for 30 consecutive minutes.

How Long Does Heat Treatment Last?

Once lumber or WPM has gone through the heat treatment process, they are considered “heat treated” until removed from service.

Where should Heat Treated materials be stored?

Inside or outside is OK.  Heat treated lumber and WPM should be stored separately from untreated lumber and WPM, to prevent the shipment of untreated material overseas.

What Happens During the Monthly Inspection?

Inspectors from the accredited agency you select will assist the designated contact person at your facility to comply with the ISPM-15 requirements for heat treating lumber and WPM. For more details on the Inspection Basics.

What if I Fail the Monthly Inspection?

The inspector will prepare a written report for you (and the American Lumber Standards Committee) on the non-compliant issues found during the inspection and steps to be taken to bring the facility into compliance.  If the inspector feels the facility will work in good faith to remedy the situation, then the facility will be given a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem(s) and another inspection will be conducted (with an additional inspection fee).  For those facilities that are repeatedly non-compliant, additional measures may be used including the revocation of the facility’s participation in the HT program.

What Liability do I Have for the Heat Treatment of my Products?

The likelihood of a claim or suit arising from improperly heat treating wood is minimal.  However, if there is a question about whether the WPM was properly heat treated or not, you could be held responsible.  We recommend that you review your insurance policy coverage with your insurance professional and legal counsel.

For example, a manufacturer produced, heat treated and affixed a quality mark or grade stamp upon the treated wood packaging material.  The material was purchased and used for its intended purpose by a company that shipped their product overseas whereupon the port authority denied delivery due to the fact the pallet was not properly heat-treated and potentially contained a form of insect or disease pest.  The shipping company then wanted to initiate legal proceedings against the manufacturer of the pallet.

Stamps and Marking Requirements

What are the Marking Requirements for WPM?

Three types of markings are used on heat treated wood packaging materials:

1. HT Grade - to be used on heat treated lumber that is sold to another facility to produce a HT pallet, crate
and other types of WPM.

2. Finished Product HT Quality Mark - wood packaging material, such as pallets, crates and other types of WPM used to carry and/or enclose items shipped overseas, must be stamped on opposite sides with the Quality Mark.

3. HT Quality Dunnage Mark- loose pieces of heat treated wood, used as skids or runners during transport, must be stamped every two feet with the Quality Dunnage Mark.

Can I Apply the Markings without Agency Oversight?

No, facilities that use the marks improperly will be investigated, probably prosecuted and possibly fined by the USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service or Customs in other countries.

How Do I Acquire a HT Stamp?

You must take part in an audit program with an accredited agency to receive and use a HT Quality (or Grade) Mark.

What do I Use to Mark Heat Treated Products?

Most HT facilities use stamps or stencils to “hand stamp” their WPM.  Other high production facilities use machines with Brands or Rollers that apply the Quality or Grade Marks.  Your accredited agency will assist you in acquiring the type of marks that work best in your operation.