Importation of Human Remains Final Rule

On July 15, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a Final Rule titled, “Control of Communicable Diseases; Importation of Human Remains.”

HHS/CDC has been tasked by Congress, through the Public Health Service Act, to publish regulations that ensure that human remains imported into the United States do not contain a communicable disease or an infectious biological agent that could threaten public health. In recent years, HHS/CDC recorded a steady increase in the number of notifications regarding the importation of body parts improperly packaged (such as contained in garbage bags or coolers that could leak fluid) or lacked proper documentation (i.e., without a valid death certificate or documentation that the remains did not contain an infectious biologic agent). In some cases, importers have misrepresented the contents of the package, or packages containing human remains were leaking.

coffin loaded into a hearse

Under this final rule, HHS/CDC has renamed 42 CFR §71.55 “Importation of Human Remains” to clarify that our authority extends to portions of the human body, and not only to “dead bodies” as a whole, as well as to highlight the difference in documentation needed between human remains imported for final resting (under §71.55) and human body parts primarily imported for other reasons, which may fall under §71.54 “Import regulations for infectious biological agents, infectious substances, and vectors.” Also, for added clarity, HHS/CDC has included four new definitions under 42 CFR §71.50 Scope and definitions, which is applicable to importations under Part 71 subpart F: “death certificate,” “human remains,” “importer,” and “leak-proof container.”

Please see the docket details for more information or view it as a PDF file [PDF – 11 pages].  For questions about this final rule or CDC’s import regulations, please see Importation of Human Remains into the United States for Burial, Entombment, or Cremation or contact CDC at