Importing and testing trade samples

Last updated:
16 May 2016
Trade samples of food can be imported for test marketing, research and development, or quality assurance purposes.

Samples of food that do not contain products of animal origin (POAO)

Samples of food that do not contain any POAO can enter the UK freely, unless restrictions apply. See a list of foodstuffs subject to European Union (EU) restrictions. Where the product is for research purposes (e.g. laboratory tests) or for commercial approval and will not be consumed, they may not be considered subject to the controls.

If the samples are for taste testing, they must be edible and free from contamination. Even if the samples are given away, it is likely that they will be controlled by food law as there is an 'extended definition of sale' in the Food Safety Act 1990 which covers food given away. For further advice, contact your local authority's food safety team or environmental health department.

Samples of food containing POAO (such as meat, honey or dairy products)

If you want to import samples of POAO, then you must check what and how much is allowed and complete an authorisation form. For further information contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA):

Imports Team
APHA Specialist Service Centre for International Trade
Hadrian House
Wavell Drive
Cumbria CA1 2TB

Tel: 01228 403 600 (option 3)
Fax: 01228 591 900

The application form can be downloaded from GOV.UK.

If APHA provides you with an authorisation exempting your product or products from checks at Border Inspection Posts, then these samples may be brought into the UK without the need to be accompanied by certification. But they must be accompanied by the original authorisation form. However, if they are to be used in taste testing, they must be safe for human consumption, and:

  • not be contaminated
  • be from an approved non-EU country (see European Commission website)
  • have been heat treated
  • only be consumed by employees and trade customers (i.e. representatives of companies that may purchase future products) who must be advised that the products have not been subjected to imported food checks at any Border Inspection Post on entry to the UK. Authorisations are not issued for samples intended for taste testing by the general public.

Testing of food samples

Importers must ensure that their goods are safe and legal before they are purchased from producers and imported into the UK.

Public Analysts, who are skilled scientists, are available to test that food samples comply with food safety requirements by undertaking chemical analysis and/or by arranging for microbiological examination, although there is no legal requirement for importers to do so.

The Agency has published a list of Official Food Control Laboratories in the UK.

In addition, there are a number of other laboratories in the UK and abroad that would undertake the work that importers may require. The importer could then arrange for the analysis report to form the basis of their quality controls for their supplier.

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