Imported food control

Can I bring imported foods into this country and sell them at my food premises?

The simple answer is 'no', unless certain foods are accompanied by health certificates and are produced in an 'approved premises' which have been inspected by an EC Veterinary Officer. The packaging must also display a license number if it is classed as a fishery, meat or dairy product. 

Anyone wishing to import foods for sale in the UK must contact The Food Standards Agency - Imported Foods to obtain advice and permission. There are also a number of labelling issues to be applied concerning composition,  storage and use-by information.

Can I bring imported foods into this country for personal consumption?

The same legislation applies to certain foods such as fishery, meat and dairy products, which must display EC Health marks on the outer packaging.  However, there are many restrictions on foods that originate outside the EC and some which are not permitted at all.  The full list of foods and countries affected can be found on the DEFRA Website. Further advice can also be found on the Food Standards Agency - Personal Imports Page.

Personal Imports

There are no specific restrictions on the importation of foods for personal consumption from other EU Member States. However, restrictions are in place in relation to foods imported from Third Countries but these vary depending on the type of food involved.

Personal imports will include foods brought back by travellers in their luggage or sent to a private, named individual either by post, courier service or private carrier (including those ordered online). Any food posted to a commercial address will in law be considered to be a commercial import and will, where appropriate, be subject to import control rules.

Personal Imports from Third Countries: FNAO

Members of the public can bring back reasonable quantities of food that does not contain anything of animal origin. For large amounts, if it is considered to be for commercial purposes then it may be subject to checks by the port health authorities at the point of import.

Personal imports of fruit and raw vegetables from outside the EU may be subject to a limit of 2kg due to plant health restrictions; also, personal imports of potatoes from non- EU countries are not permitted. Information on what fruit and vegetables are restricted and which are not restricted are available on the Food and Environment Research Agency’s website.

Personal Imports from Third Countries: POAO

Personal imports of meat, meat products, milk and milk products are banned from most countries outside the EU, with limited exceptions. Up to 20kg as a combined weight for all fishery products (with the exception of caviar from sturgeon species), 2kg as a combined weight of ‘other animal products’ such as honey, eggs, egg products, live bivalves, snail meat, reptile and insect meat and frogs’ legs. Further information regarding personal imports can be found on the Defra website, including an advisory leaflet produced by the UK Border Agency.

The Personal Import Rules database can be accessed for a product specific check of personal imports that are permitted in the UK, and those that are not.