Last updated on 28 December 2011
Commercial imports - your questions answered
Frequently asked questions on commercial imports from countries outside the EU (third countries)
Where can I find further information on the rules for importing for commercial purposes from countries outside the EU?
Further advice on importing for commercial purposes is available on the Agency website. Please refer to the trade information sheets.
Not all food products are listed on these sheets. Instead you will need to refer to the relevant sheet for the type of product(s) you wish to import.
You may require an import licence depending on the type of product(s) you wish to import.
The Rural Payments Agency can advise on licences for products not of animal origin. They can be contacted on 0191 226 5050 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With regard to licences for products of animal origin (e.g. an import licence is required for trade samples of fishery products), Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency can advise. They can be contacted on 01245 454 860 or by email at email@example.com.
Import restrictions apply to a wide range of foods. Certain foods may be subject to an increased level of control under EU law. The Agency has published a list of products that are either banned or subject to restrictions from a food safety perspective.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is responsible for general labelling enquiries, and can be contacted on 08459 335577 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The number above is the Defra helpline number therefore you will need to specify that you wish to be put through to the food labelling department.
Who should I contact regarding additives such as colourings, sweeteners, flavourings and preservatives?
The Agency’s additives team can be contacted on 020 7276 8570 or by email at email@example.com.
Under EU law, you are not required to test food products once they are already in the UK. However, should you wish to do so, testing can be carried out at an Official Control Laboratory.
Please note: Consignments of certain foods may require laboratory test results when entering the EU. For further information please see the list of foodstuffs with current EU restrictions.
Food products from another EU country are in ‘free circulation’ in the European Community and are therefore not considered as imports. Although they are not subject to Customs checks, national checks may apply when there are risks to public health. Providing the food product is compliant with general food safety and hygiene requirements as outlined in the Food Safety Act 1990 (food must not be rendered injurious to health, unfit for human consumption or so contaminated that it is not reasonable to expect it to be used for human consumption in that state), then it can enter the UK.