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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:

Imports

Food which is intended for human consumption must meet the general food safety requirements of European Union (EU) law. Under EC Regulation 178/2002 these requirements are that food must not be unsafe, that is:

  • injurious to health, or
  • unfit for human consumption.

Food from other European Union (EU) Member States is in free circulation. However  strict import rules with respect to food and feed hygiene, consumer safety and animal health status from non-EU countries aim at assuring that all imports fulfill the same high standards as products from the EU itself.  Import controls are crucial in verifying compliance of food and feed products with relevant requirements.

In addition to the general provisions of EC Regulation 178/2002, the specific legislation applying to imported food depends on whether the food is of animal origin or not.  Some products can only come into the EU through specific ports, for example:

  • animal products can only enter through a port with a Border Inspection Post (BIP) and 
  • high risk products not of animal origin must enter through a Designated point of entry.

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, please note that even if a consignment has come from within the EU, random spot checks may take place to see whether it originated from outside of the EU and if so,  that official controls have been carried out by the EU port of dispatch. 

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'.

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. 

POAO can only be imported through a point of entry approved as a Border Inspection Post (BIP).

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.  

Exports

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 trader@rpa.gsi.gov.uk.

Labelling

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 enquiries@fss.scot for more information.

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

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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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