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Imports & Exports

If you’re importing or exporting food, you need to comply with regulations. Failure to do so could cause enforcement authorities to take action.

Information and guidance on:


EC Regulation 2017/625 along with its Delegated and Implementing regulations, establishes an integrated approach to import controls (and official control requirements more generally – for more information click here).  Common rules apply to  all imported food and feed, with additional specific requirements for products of animal origin and other high risk products.   All high risk products  are subject to the specific controls set down in law.  These official controls are required to be carried out by Port Health Staff at Border Control Posts (BCPs).       

Animals and goods subject to official controls at BCPs include:

  • Animals
  • Products of animal origin (POAO), composite products
  • High risk products of non-animal origin subject to increased level of official controls due to a known or an emerging risk to public health
  • Germinal products, animal-by-products
  • Plants and plant products

Full details of animal and goods subject to official controls at BCPs are laid down in Article 47 of the Official Controls Regulation (EU) 2017/625.    

From 14 December 2019 all Border Inspection Posts (BIPs), Designated Points of Import (DPI’s), Designated Points of Entry (DPEs) and First Points of Introduction (FPIs) were re-designated as Border Control Posts (BCPs).  

Common Health Entry Document

A single standard document, the Common Health Entry Document (CHED), must  be used by operators for the prior notification of consignments.  The CHED replaces the Common Veterinary Entry Document (CVED) and the Common Entry Document (CED). 

The CHED is transmitted to the BCP through TRACES NT.  From 11pm on 13 December 2019 TRACES NT becomes the IT system used for notifying imports of above products from outside the EU.  Importers of such products from outside the EU should register for TRACES NT.

TRACES NT is part of the new computerised Integrated System for Official Controls Integrated Management System for Official Controls (IMSOC) which allows the integration of existing computerised systems (TRACES - Trade Control and Expert System, RASFF - Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, Europhyt, AAC - Administrative Assistance and Cooperation System), to optimise the handling and exchange of information, data and documents necessary for the enforcement of agri-food chain rules.

Feed and food products which are not subject to official controls at BCPs

Feed an food products which are not subject to official controls at BCPs may enter through any port, although importers should contact the port or the local authority in whose area the port is situated to check that the port has the necessary facilities in place to handle the products.  These products will be subject to checks on a risk assessed basis. 

Feed and food that is lawfully imported into a Member State from a non EU country may subsequently be distributed into other Member States without the need for further checks to be made.  However, even if a consignment has come from within the EU, random spot checks may take place to verify its’ country of origin and whether relevant official controls have taken place.

Guidance for Enforcement officers is available in the documents ‘Inland Enforcement of Imported Feed and Food Controls’ and ‘Effective Import Controls for food and feed of non-animal origin at smaller seaports and airports'.

Please note this guidance will be reviewed to bring in line with new OCT requirements. 

Products of animal origin (POAO)

These are products that derive from animals and include:

  • fresh meat
  • meat products
  • meat preparations
  • dairy products
  • fishery products
  • shellfish
  • egg products
  • honey,
  • insects and
  • fishmeal used in animal feed. 

Products not of animal origin (Non-POAO)

This description applies to any products that are intended for human or animal consumption, that do not contain any ingredients derived from animals or animal products, for example:

  • spices
  • fruits and vegetables
  • nuts
  • confectionary
  • cereals
  • certain bakery products
  • herbs
  • spices
  • mineral water
  • fruit juices etc.  

POAO and some non POAO can only be imported through a point of entry approved as a Border Control Post (BCP).

A list of BCPs in the UK is available here.

Abbreviations and specifications applicable to the categories of animals and goods for which BCPs are designated can be found at Annex II of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1014


Exports of food and drink

Within the European Union (EU) there is free movement of goods.  Free movement is where goods, including food products, can freely move within the EU without customs checks,  although there may be national controls where there are risks to public health.  If you are exporting food products from the UK to another EU country, contact the authority in the destination country, or their foreign embassy in the UK, to check if there are any specific restrictions.

If you are commercially exporting food from the UK to a non-EU country it is your responsibility to ensure that you are aware of any restrictions and what export conditions apply. You need to do this before food can be exported to the third country.

In the UK, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is the Central Competent Authority (CCA) for International Trade. They are responsible for negotiating new export markets in non-EU countries and for ensuring continued access to those export markets.   Further advice can be found on Defra’s website

Export Certification

Certain third countries will require food and drink exports to be certified before being exported.  Individual countries will have specific requirements in terms of the types of documentation needed for products being imported. The requirements will differ depending on the country and the specific type of product.

Food Standards Scotland is not responsible for issuing export certification.  The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) are responsible for issuing export health certificates (EHC) for most products of animal origin (POAO) to specific non-EU countries. 

The UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP) is a DEFRA / Industry partnership dedicated to securing market access for UK meat and livestock producers.  Search the EKECP website  to find EHC and their associated documents for livestock (cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, camelids) or other genetics or meat which are available to download as specimen copy PDF files.  These specimen copies are for information purposes only.  Exporters are advised to conform availability with APHA.     

Local Authorities have authority to sign export certificates to companies who wish to export certain food products to countries outside the EU.  Local Authorities mainly sign certificates for fish and shellfish products but also certify a wide range of other products, including foods not of animal origin. The Guidance for Local Authorities on Non-EU country exports certification sets out the role of local authorities in the export certification process for food and feed.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) can also provide Certificates of Free Sale to accompany certain food products upon export.  The standard certificate gives assurances that the food products are free from harmful radioactive material, are fit for human consumption and are freely sold in Britain and Northern Ireland.  The RPA can be contacted on 03000 200 301 or by email at


In Scotland, Food Standards Scotland has policy responsibility for general labelling (e.g. name of the food, ingredients lists, food allergens, etc.) and nutrition labelling (e.g. Energy, amounts of fat, salt sugar etc.).

Contact for more information.

For advice on the labelling of specific products, please contact your local authority’s Environmental Health Department.

More on this topic

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EU Official Controls Regulation

The OCR allows members of the single market to be sure that the competent authorities (CAs) in Member States are conducting controls in a suitably rigorous and impartial manner.

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Safety & Regulation

Our Food Safety and regulation pages cover all of our advice and guidance for business, industry and Local Authority enforcement officers.

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