Importing sugar and sweeteners

Guidance on additives, labelling, packaging and hygiene when importing sugar and sweetners.
Last updated

General information

Imports of sugar and sweeteners from countries outside the European Union (EU) must meet the same or equivalent food hygiene and compositional standards and procedures as food produced in the UK or other EU Member States. You do not normally need a health certificate to import these products.

Import licences

You may not need a health or hygiene licence to import food, but many foods from countries outside the EU require licences for trading purposes and may be subject to quotas.

For further information please visit the Rural Payments Agency's website. 

Labelling

You will find general information about food labelling on the GOV.UK website. For advice on the labelling of specific products, please visit GOV.UK to locate your local authority’s Trading Standards Department or Environmental Health Department.

Organics

If you are importing organic products (live or unprocessed agricultural products, processed agricultural for use as food or feed and vegetative propagating material and seeds for cultivation), from outside the EU, please visit DEFRAs website to contact the Organic Imports team. For information on organic regulation and standards, (including labelling) within the UK please contact the Organic Strategy team.

Packaging

Food contact materials and articles, including those used for food packaging, are controlled by all-encompassing comprehensive EU harmonised legislation that has been fully implemented in the UK. This legislation is particularly thorough in its control of plastic materials and articles intended for food use. For information on the safety of packaging please contact the Food Contact Materials Team.

Food hygiene

For general enquiries on food hygiene please contact the Food Hygiene Policy Team.

Pesticides

For information on pesticides safety levels for sugar and sweeteners contact Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Chemicals Regulation Directorate, visit their webpage.

Contaminants

A guidance note on the Contaminants in Food (England) Regulations 2013, which make provision for enactment and enforcement of Commission Regulations setting regulatory limits for contaminants in food (nitrate, mycotoxins, metals, 3-MCPD, dioxins and PAHs), can be found onlineat:

Import restrictions

Approved food additives, such as sweeteners, are controlled in the European Union by way of a positive list in the legislation once their safety has been rigorously assessed. The legislation describes the rules for the sale and use of sweeteners, describes the food categories in which they are permitted to be used and the maximum usable dose levels allowed in these categories. Sweeteners that do not appear in the list are not permitted in foods if used primarily for an additive function.

Information on the legislation can be found via the following link: For more information on sweeteners, please contact our Food Additives team by email.  

From 2 December 2011 the use of Steviol glycosides are permitted in certain foods at set levels. Steviol glycosides (including stevioside and rebaudioside A) are high intensity sweeteners, 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose. They are isolated and purified from the leaves of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni). Steviol glycosides complying with specific purity criteria will be permitted in specified food types (such as soft drinks, confectionary and table-top sweeteners) subject to specified maximum levels.

Stevia leaves are regarded to be novel foods and require a separate application and approval before they can be legally marketed in the EU. An application for approval of the leaves under EU Novel Foods legislation is currently being evaluated.

Imports of feed and food from Japan

As of 27 March 2011 imports of all feed and food originating in or consigned from Japan to the EU are subject to special conditions. This is following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in March 2011. This will mean that consignments of feed and food can only enter the UK through specific ports and airports where official controls will be carried out. 

Team Contacts

Food Contact Materials Team

FoodContactMaterial@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk

Food Hygiene Policy Team

foodhygiene.policy@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk

Food Additives Team

foodadditives@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk