Importing high risk foods

Defining what a high risk product is, guidance on aflatoxin levels in imported food, current EU restrictions and guidance for importing certain produce from non-EU countries.
Last updated

All products imported into the UK must comply with European Union (EU) law on contaminants, these laws are put into place to protect public health. There are certain types of food which are considered high risk, if you are involved with importing food from a third country, a non-EU country then you must be aware of this guidance.

If imported products fail to meet the correct standards they will not be allowed into the EU. It is important to note that goods can only be imported through designated points of entry (DPE), where documentary checks must be carried out and physical checks may be required prior to release. If you are importing foods which contain contaminants you must ensure you import through a DPE which can check your produce.

High risk products may be considered high risk if they contain:

  • contaminants - mycotoxins and aflatoxins
  • pesticides
  • salmonella

Information on high-risk products, country of origin and the frequency of checks can be found at Annex I of Regulation 669/2009 as amended by Regulation 2017/1142.

Aflatoxin levels in imported food

Aflatoxins are a type of toxin which are naturally found in food and are linked with cancer when eaten at high levels. Some spices, nuts, dried fruit and cereals, including cereal products like breakfast cereals, can contain high levels of aflatoxins.

There are limits on the level of aflatoxins that can be in foods imported into the European Union (EU) and some products might need to be tested. The harmonised controls that affect the import of specific products from certain non-EU countries can be found at this link.

For safeguard controls on certain food products affected by aflatoxin contamination, you will need to look at Regulation 884/2015, including the amendments Regulation 2016/24 and Regulation 2016/2106.

Food stuffs with current EU restrictions 

These controls exist to protect public health and may either suspend imports or specify conditions of import. In most cases, consignments may only be imported through designated entry points, documentary checks must be carried out and sampling and analysis or examination may be required prior to release.

Updated January 2018

Importing produce from India

Listed below are other food items that are at risk of contamination and have regulation for their import into the EU.

If importing the following products you need to be aware of certain regulations:

Importing produce from China

Products of animal origin which are imported from China must comply with specific health conditions.

The following products can enter the EU providing consignments adhere to the following rules:

  • undergoes pre-shipment checks for the presence of the illegal veterinary medicines chloramphenicol and nitrofurans and their metabolites
  • is accompanied by a signed declaration from the Chinese competent authority with the analytical check results

Fishery products are all animal products derived from fish. Aquaculture is a type of fishery product that has been farmed.

Consignments of aquaculture need to undergo pre-shipment checks for the presence of malachite green, crystal violet and their metabolites. Aquaculture must be accompanied by a signed declaration from the Chinese competent authority with the analytical results.

For full controls and a complete list of controlled products see the Commission Decision.

The import restrictions for some poultry products from China remain in place due to the outbreak of avian (bird) flu.

Importing produce from Ukraine or Japan

If you are importing produce from Ukraine or Japan you should follow Regulation EU 2016/6 - imposing special conditions governing the import of feed and food originating in or consigned from Japan following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station.

Restricted food stuffs

Soy sauce containing 3-MCPD

Some soy sauce contains a dangerous chemical called 3-MCPD. There are limits on the levels of 3-MCPD that can be present in products imported into the UK and EU.

These are:

  • soy sauce can contain levels of 3-MCPD no higher than 0.02 mg/kg
  • this is for the liquid product containing 40% dry matter, which corresponds to a maximum level of 0.05 mg/kg in the dry matter

Import ban on jelly sweets

There are restrictions within the EU on the additives permitted in certain jelly confectionery because there is a risk of choking:

Kava kava import ban

Kava Kava, a member of the pepper family, is as a traditional herbal remedy for the treatment of anxiety. The herb has been banned since 2003. This is because of concerns about its toxic effect on the liver. Kava kava supplements, or foods containing this herb cannot be imported into the EU.

Illegal dye in spices and palm oils

Certain spices are at risk of contamination. EU food authorities regulate high risk imports. If illegal dye levels are at or above 0.5 parts per million (0.5ppm) they are rejected.

Spices at risk of contamination from illegal dye include:

  • dried chilli
  • chilli products
  • curry powder
  • palm oil