Food exportation and importation

How can you import food into the UK?

These are fluctuating times for international trade – with the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing Brexit developments, global supply chain issues, and geopolitical tensions. This article will provide information about food exportation and importation for your business. 

How can you import food into the UK?

When importing food, you need to know about regulations that apply to specific products and more general rules on labelling and additives.

Importing high-risk food 

All products imported into the UK must follow the law on contaminants to protect public health. If the food contains contaminants such as mycotoxins and aflatoxins, pesticides, or Salmonella, it can be considered high risk.

You can import restricted goods only through Border Control Points (BCPs)

Customs staff carry out physical checks and document checks before the goods can be released. 

Products controlled at the border may be permitted to move inland pending the results of laboratory tests, whilst remaining under the control of the authorities.

If imported products fail to meet the correct standards, they cannot enter the UK.

Importing products of animal origin

Importing products of animal origin has potential hazards.

These products include meat, milk, eggs, and honey. 

If your business deals with importing products of animal origin to the UK, you must:

  • Notify the border control point (BCP) in advance of the arrival of the consignments
  • Submit the relevant documentation to the BCP, including an original health certificate
  • Present the goods to the BCP for checks
  • Pay for all charges for the inspection of the goods and issuance of the Common Health Entry Document (CHED)

Importing products of non-animal origin

Most products of non-animal origin can enter through any port. However, some products from specific countries are subject to emergency controls. They can only enter the UK through designated border control posts.

These products of non-animal origin have increased levels of control when entering the UK. Importers must take extra steps and processes at designated entry points when importing these goods as products could contain aflatoxins (such as nuts), pesticides, Salmonella or radiocaesium.

Importing composite products 

A composite product is a foodstuff intended for human consumption that contains both processed products of animal origin and products of plant origin.

Composite products must come from a country listed in the legislation as approved to develop animal origin contained in the combined product.

Composite products must have the relevant official certificate containing processed meat, milk, eggs, or fish.

Composite products containing any other animal product must have the relevant certificate required for the particular animal content or, in other cases, by a commercial document.

How can you export food from the UK? 

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in the UK Central Competent Authority (CCA) for International Trade handles negotiating new export markets and ensures continued access to those markets.

Businesses need to assure Defra that food and drink exported from the UK have been produced under the UK legislative requirements. They also need to ensure that the goods meet any additional import requirements that the destination country has set.

Export certification

All products imported into the UK must follow the law on contaminants to protect public health.

Certain countries, including the EU, require that some UK food and drink exports be certified by the UK certifying authority before being exported.

Information on export certification for exporters from England and Wales is available from Defra and exports from Northern Ireland at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Before you export food and drink products from the UK, you must check if there are any specific restrictions with:

  • your customer
  • the authorities in the destination country
  • the relevant country’s foreign embassy in the UK

Individual countries have specific requirements regarding the types of documentation needed for exported products. The requirements differ depending on the country and the kind of product.


The food industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, employing 4.3 million people and generating around £120 billion annually. UK agri-food and drink sales overseas reached nearly £24 billion in 2019. 

On the other hand, 80% of British food is imported, including basics such as carrots and tea. 

Food exportation and importation are expected to increase despite the pandemic and post-Brexit difficulties. 

The sector has enormous opportunities for expansion. If you want your business to succeed, you need to be informed of the latest developments. 

If you want to find more helpful information, read our blog. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *