Commercial imports - your questions answered

Frequently asked questions on commercial imports from countries outside the EU (third countries)
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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 FSA website. Please refer to the various Imported food 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.

Will I require an import licence for my product(s)?

You may require an import licence depending on the type of product(s) you wish to import. Please note that the FSA does not issue import licences, approvals or certificates.

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 Trader@rpa.gsi.gov.uk

For products of animal origin (e.g. an import licence is required for trade samples of fishery products), the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) can advise. They can be contacted on 01228 403 600 (option 3) or by email at imports@apha.gsi.gov.uk.

Is the food I wish to import subject to any restrictions?

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.

Who should I contact if I have a question regarding labelling?

For advice on the labelling of specific products, please contact your local authority’s Trading Standards Office or Environmental Health Department, or that of your UK distributor if you have one. To find out their contact details please follow the link below: Find your local trading standards office or find a food safety team.

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 foodadditives@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk.

Does the food need to be tested at a lab before it is imported?

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.

I would like to import from another EU country. What are the rules for trade between Member States?

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. For more information please see Imported food trade information sheet 6 - Food from within the European Union.