Comptroller-General Of Customs v Pharm-A-Care Laboratories Pty Ltd [2020] HCA 2

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  • The Respondent, Pharm-A-Care Laboratories Pty Ltd (“PACL”), imports pastilles into Australia. Pastilles are a type of medicinal candy.  The pastilles contain ingredients such as sucrose, glucose syrup, gelatin, flavours and other substances including vitamins of specified descriptions or a quantity of hydroxycitric acid.
  • The Customs Tariff Act 1995 (Cth) (“the Act“)  imposes customs dutues on imported goods.
  • Chapter 30 of Sch 3 to the Act contains heading 3004. Heading 3004 states that medicines consisting of mixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses in measured doses are classifiable. Note 1(a) to Ch 30 of the Act states that the chapter does not cover “foods … such as … food supplements“.
  • The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (“the AAT“) found that the pastilles were classifiable under heading 3004. No duty was owed on the importation of the preparations.
  • The Comptroller appealed this decision to the Federal Court of Australia and contended that the pastilles were “sugar confectionary” and were “food supplements” should be subject to customs.  The FCA dismissed the appeal. The Comptroller appealed to the High Court.


  • Did the pastilles fall under category of “food supplements” for the purpose of classifications under the Act?


  • The High Court unanimously held that the Tribunal was correct in concluding that the pastilles fell outside the description of “food supplements“.
  • The Court further held that the Tribunal did not wrongly equate the expression “food preparations” in heading 2106 with the expressions “foods” or “food supplements” in Note 1(a).

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